A 43-year-old man who was responsible for the death of a Parke County Sheriff and his wife has been sentenced to 17 years. He is likely to serve two years of the sentence in prison. The rest of the sentence will either be house arrest, probation, or credit for time served.
The family and friends of Mike and Darla Eslinger asked the court to impose the statutory maximum for the driver’s crime. Friends of the driver asked the court to impose a more lenient sentence.
The Eslingers were passengers in a Nissan SUV driven by their 17-year-old granddaughter when the crash occurred. The granddaughter was injured in the crash, having sustained injuries to her back and legs. The driver was taken to the hospital, as was one of his passengers.
The driver was charged with two counts of OWI resulting in death and two counts of OWI resulting in serious bodily injury. The ensuing criminal case had to be moved from Parke County amid concerns that a jury would have been partial to the victims. Both Eslingers were upstanding members of the community and well-liked in the area. The case was moved to Owen County.
The driver confessed to driving under the influence after leaving a local bar and imbibing between six to eight beers. The driver swerved his car into oncoming traffic and hit the Eslinger’s vehicle head-on.
Adding up all of the penalties, the prosecutor asked for the maximum sentence, which would have been 17 years served consecutively in state prison. The defense pleaded to have the sentence served at home. The judge, essentially, gave both parties what they were asking for.
The driver was given the statutory maximum for the deaths, which is six years each, and the statutory maximum for the injuries, which is two and a half years each. But instead of forcing the driver to serve all 17 years in prison, the judge ordered that two of those years be served in prison, and the rest can be served in home confinement. For at least four of those years, the driver will be required to wear an ankle monitor. He will also be credited for serving a year in jail.
The granddaughter was among those who provided testimony on behalf of her grandparents. She told the court that she had just finished playing basketball for high school, and her grandparents had come to watch her. She was driving home with her grandparents to retrieve her car keys so she could unlock her own vehicle, which was in the school parking lot.