KENOSHA -- The man who caused a triple fatal drunk-driving crash was sentenced to more than three decades in prison on Friday, Nov. 22. Timothy Vanervere killed three members of a Kenosha family last April. He spoke for the first time Friday and apologized to the victims' family.
Timothy Vandervere appeared in Kenosha County court on Thursday, Sept. 19 -- and pleaded guilty to three counts of homicide by use of a vehicle and one count of injury/use of a vehicle in connection to a crash that killed three prominent residents of Kenosha. On the night of the crash, officials say Vandervere had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .316 -- nearly four times the legal limit.
In exchange for the guilty pleas, the prosecution agreed to have the court dismiss the below charges:
- First degree reckless homicide (three counts)
- Knowingly operate motor vehicle while revoked — causing death of another (three counts)
- Reckless driving causing great bodily harm
- Knowingly operate motor vehicle while revoked — causing great bodily harm
- Operate motor vehicle while revoked
Vandervere said family is important to him, apologizing to everyone in court for his actions. Loved ones of the Rizzo family say his sentence was appropriate.
"The defendant killed nearly an entire generation of my family that day," said Janet Duemke, daughter of the crash victims.
It was an emotional day in the Kenosha courtroom as loved ones of the Rizzo family reflected on April 5, 2019.
"From the bottom of my heart, I'm so sorry to each and every one of you for that," said Vandervere. "I regret every day what happened that Friday."
Vandervere was accused of driving a pickup truck that slammed into an SUV that included four members of the Rizzo family on Friday, April 5. The collision between the truck and the SUV caused the Rizzo’s vehicle to end up in a ditch along Highway 50. Those killed in the wreck included 67-year-old Dr. Michael Rizzo, 74-year-old Mary Rizzo, and 76-year-old Dr. Vincent Rizzo. A fourth family member, Gerald Rizzo, who was driving the vehicle, was hurt.
"This will weigh heavy on me for the rest of my life," said Vandervere.
At the time of the crash, Vandervere's blood-alcohol level was .316 -- nearly four times the legal limit. On Friday, he was sentenced to 32 years in prison with 17 years of extended supervision.
"We need to deter first offenders, and our law doesn't do it," said Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder.
"There wasn't really a winner in the courtroom today," said Duemke. "It devastated our family, and it will for generations to come."
Vandervere's attorney doesn't agree with the sentence.
"Mr. Vandervere is now going to be away from his family, essentially, probably for the rest of his life," said Matt Last, defense attorney. "That is an absolutely difficult thing."
Both sides of the courtroom agree the law surrounding drinking and driving in Wisconsin need to change.