Judge gives DUI driver convicted of murder 10 years in prison; Relatives of man killed in plane crash remember him as ‘Sunbeam’ | News, sports, jobs
Photo taken by: Chris Conde/Journal World
The family of a man killed in a DUI crash shared their grief Wednesday in Douglas County District Court at the sentencing of the driver convicted of killing him.
Anthony Michael Royal, 56, of Lawrence, pleaded guilty in August to second-degree murder and one count of DUI for his third or more convictions, the Journal-World reported.
The charges relate to an accident that occurred on the evening of April 8, 2022, when Royal attempted to exit Kansas Interstate 10 at the Bob Billings Parkway ramp in a 2017 Dodge Ram, failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with another vehicle. John Thomas Kirby, 70, of Lawrence, died as a result of the crash, the Journal-World reported.
Royal pleaded guilty to the murder charge as part of an agreement with the state that he would be sentenced to 102 months, or 8.5 years, in prison, but Judge Amy Hanley deviated from that agreement and sentenced Royal to 123 months, just over that. 10 years.
Before Hanley read her decision, three of Kirby’s granddaughters spoke in favor of a longer sentence.
Photo taken by: Chris Conde/Journal World
Samantha Torres said Kirby was the “most amazing person” she had ever known, and that his death left a hole in her heart.
“He was a ray of sunshine who would light up an entire room with his laughter. Now these rooms are silent,” Torres said.
Torres said she rushed to the hospital after learning of the accident. She said she saw Kirby’s injuries and still has nightmares from the experience. Although she did not see the accident or read any police reports, she was often transported to the scene in her mind.
“That memory is etched in my mind,” Torres said.
She said Kirby was one of her biggest fans who supported her at every turn, and she always knew Kirby was proud of her. But due to the fatal accident, he was unable to see her graduate from college and will never see her get married.
She said Royal deserved to be “locked up forever” after driving drunk multiple times and now killing someone.
“People like my grandfather are constantly being taken from the world. They will never be forgiven,” Torres said.
Kirby’s granddaughter, Alex Misch, said Kirby was “a warm, caring person who would give you the shirt off his back” and lamented that younger family members would never get to know him.
Misch said that the health of Kirby’s widow, Carolyn Kirby, 76, began to deteriorate after her husband’s death, and she also died in July of this year.
Misch said she was celebrating her eldest child’s birthday when she received the news that Kirby had been in an accident.
“Make this man serve the maximum possible sentence,” she told the judge.
A third granddaughter, Sarah Higman, said Kirby was more than just a grandfather and that he was like a father to her, her siblings and cousins.
“His laugh was contagious,” Hegeman said.
Photo taken by: Contributed
She said that the love between her grandparents was the greatest example of love between two people that she had ever witnessed.
“My grandmother died with a broken heart,” Hegeman said.
Hegeman told the court she had worked in corrections in the past and had seen people sentenced to longer prison terms than Royal was facing for less serious crimes.
“It is incomprehensible to me that he will not be sentenced to life imprisonment,” she said.
Hanley asked how the state, represented by Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum, and Royal’s attorney, Dakota Loomis, reached their 102-month agreement since Kansas sentencing guidelines require a minimum of 152 months and 12.6 years in prison for someone with a criminal history. For Royale. .
Tatum said it was a compromise between the murder charge and the manslaughter charge that was brought as an alternative. She said Royal would have been convicted of the lesser charge had he gone to trial, and if convicted he would have been sentenced to no more than 52 months in prison, just over four years.
Royal was in a wheelchair during the sentencing. He appeared at previous hearings with a walker but said he recently underwent ankle surgery and spent the past two months in medical isolation in prison. While in isolation, he said he thought every day that he should have driven home differently or stopped drinking at the bar.
Addressing Kirby’s family and the court, Royal said: “With the deepest sympathy, I apologize for taking Mr. Kirby from you.”
He said he was a member of the Kickapoo Tribe and spent many years as a foreman at a construction job and in public service as a volunteer firefighter and officer for his tribe.
“Now I add a convicted murderer to that,” Royal said.
Royal said he had long struggled with alcohol addiction and that he had taken four vodka tonics on the day of the incident, and that he was grieving at the time for a friend who died in 2019. He said his time in prison last year was the longest he had spent sober. In more than 40 years.
Royal said his wife died a few years ago, but when she died she was in hospice care surrounded by her loved ones.
“I took that away from Mr. Kirby,” Royal said.
Loomis said Royal took responsibility for the incident by pleading guilty to murder. Loomis added that while Royal did not stop at the stop sign that day, Royal believed he tried and that his brakes may have failed. Loomis presented the court with a receipt from an area mechanic who worked on Royal’s truck the day before the accident. He said Royal had his tires replaced and that there might have been a mechanical failure, but since Royal’s truck was destroyed by fire immediately after the accident, there was no way to know for sure.
Hanley said she appreciated the work the state and defense put into the agreement, and that she understood how they arrived at the 102-month sentence, but she wanted to find her own compromise: 123 months.
She said DUI cases come before her often, and they can be the hardest to deal with because alcohol abuse can harm the lives of many. She thanked Kirby’s granddaughters for their courage in speaking out despite their grief.
Hanley said she appreciated Royal taking responsibility, but when looking at similar cases where other defendants have received longer prison terms, she wanted to be consistent. She said 123 months represents the maximum sentence someone with no criminal record could get under the guidelines. She also sentenced him to 12 months in prison for the DUI charge to run concurrently.
“There is no number I can impose that would undo the damage to Mr. Kirby’s family. “This is probably the hardest part of my job,” Hanley said.
She then ordered Royal to register as a violent offender for 15 years after his release from prison, and said he would receive 380 days, just over one year, of time served for his sentence. Royal has been detained since his arrest in October 2022.