December 19, 2014

Teen sentenced for double fatality crash

A young Manitowoc County man will spend four years in prison, for his conviction in the deaths of two other teens in a car crash. Manitowoc County Judge Gary Bendix sentenced 18 year-old Zachary Gauthier to four years of initial confinement, followed by ten years of extended supervision, based on two years in prison and five years of supervision on each count, to be served consecutively.

Gauthier, who entered no contest pleas in October, was driving a stolen vehicle at a high rate of speed in the town of Manitowoc last March when he lost control, entered the ditch and hit a tree. Killed in the accident were Chelsea Harding and Zachary Zahn, both of Manitowoc and sophomores at Lincoln High School. District Attorney Mark Rohrer had argued for ‘seven to eight years of initial confinement followed by ten years of extended supervision. The defense asked for jail time and probation.

“It goes without saying that there is no sentence that will ever bring these children back.” said Rohr. “It’s a horrific, tragic situation. Hopefully . . . other young people will think twice before doing what Mr. Gauthier did.” Gauthier will have the opportunity to see that they do – conditions of his extended supervision include that he speak to school groups on the dangers of reckless driving. In addition, with the approval of the victims families, he’ll visit Zahn and Harding’s gravesites.

The conclusion of the Gauthier case comes on the heels of last month’s sentencing for Becky Holly. The 44 year-old Manitowoc area woman killed three members of a family – 79 year-old Lawrence Gerroll, his 75 year-old wife Lou, and their 48 year-old daughter Joan – while driving drunk in October 2011. Holly was sentenced to six years in prison followed by 15 years of extended supervision.

“People have to realize the danger of what a vehicle can become,” said D.A. Rohrer. “If you’re being reckless, or drunk, a vehicle becomes in essence a weapon of destruction.”

Damon Ryan, WOMT