Family remembers loving grandfather before judge sentences man to 10 years in prison in car crash – Lawrence Times

Family remembers loving grandfather before judge sentences man to 10 years in prison in car crash – Lawrence Times

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A Lawrence man convicted of second-degree murder stemming from the April 2022 drunk-driving crash that led to the death of John T. Kirby was sentenced Wednesday to more than 10 years in prison — a year and a half longer than prosecutors recommended. .

Anthony M. admitted. Royal, 56, pleaded guilty in August as part of an agreement with the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office. In exchange for the guilty plea, Royal was given a recommendation to leave for a lesser term, or shorter sentence, on the second-degree murder charge in addition to his third drunken driving conviction.


However, the courts are not bound by the recommendations, and Douglas County District Court Judge Amy Hanley issued a sentence that added 21 months to the prison time recommended by Royal.

Three of Kirby’s granddaughters spoke to the court before sentencing. Samantha Torres, Alex Misch and Sarah Hegeman shared stories of their grandfather’s loving nature, contagious laughter and dedication to family.

“Our entire lives have changed forever,” Hegeman said. “I have absolutely no sympathy for Anthony. He deserves nothing less than to spend the rest of his days thinking about the pain he has caused our family.”

The District Attorney’s Office worked with defense attorney Dakota Loomis to reach a plea agreement, in which both parties recommended 102 months (8.5 years) in prison for the murder conviction. Had the case gone to trial, a judge or jury would have had the option of convicting Royal of manslaughter, a less serious charge that would have come with a shorter sentence.

According to the accident report, Royal was exiting the K-10 at Bob Billings Parkway in a Dodge Ram and failed to stop at the top of the ramp, striking Kirby’s BMW SUV. Kirby, who was 70, was taken to Lawrence Memorial Hospital but did not survive the crash. Royal, who was reportedly found crawling away from his burning car, suffered two broken legs and was taken to Stormont Vail Health Hospital in Topeka.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Anthony Royal listens in court during the sentencing hearing for the April 2022 drive-by crash that killed John Kirby.

Royal’s blood alcohol level was 0.11, above the legal limit of 0.08. Due to a prior DUI conviction, at the time of the accident, Royal was restricted from driving a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device. Royal told investigators that this device was on another vehicle and not the truck.

After the crash, Royal told investigators his brakes seemed “spongy” and a light appeared on the dashboard warning of problems with the electronic braking system. Due to the car fire, investigators were unable to prove his claims. Before Wednesday’s sentencing, Loomis submitted paperwork from a repair shop detailing work done on the wheels and tires of Royal’s truck before the accident.

Royal, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, said he recently underwent surgery on his ankles. He read a statement describing himself as a “functional alcoholic” and apologized to Kirby’s family. He said that he brought shame on himself and his children.

“I’ve hit rock bottom,” he read. “If I hadn’t stopped at the bar. If I had taken a different route. If my brake light had come on sooner. If only.”

Hanley was shown family photos of Kirby, heard statements from family members, and heard an explanation from both Loomis and Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum regarding how the plea agreement was reached. After a 10-minute break, Hanley returned with a 123-month prison sentence.


“I have a defendant in front of me who has multiple convictions for drunk driving,” Hanley said. “That is why I do not agree that the sentence requested is the appropriate sentence. There is no number I can impose that can undo the damage to Mr Kirby’s family.”

Royal will serve the 12-month sentence for the DUI conviction concurrently, or at the same time as his 123-month sentence. He is entitled to 15% credit for good time and will be given credit for the 380 days he has already spent in custody. When his sentence is up, he will have 36 months of post-release supervision and must register as a violent offender for 15 years. He will also pay a fine of $1,750.

“Mr. Royal, my sentence is not a reflection of your character, but of your actions that day,” Hanley said. “You have to recognize this harm. There must be accountability for such actions.”

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Family members display photos of John Kirby outside the courtroom on November 1, 2023. Kirby was killed by a drunk driver in April 2022.

Kirby has been a local insurance agent for over 30 years. Daughter Laura Hegeman said her father would often mention the dangers of drinking and driving when recommending life insurance to his clients.

“He always said you never know when you might get killed by a drunk driver,” she said.

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Andrea Albright (she/her), reporter, can be reached at aalbright (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more about her work for The Times here. Check out their staff bio here.

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