Family disgusted hit-and-run driver gets 120 days in jail - FOX Carolina 21

Grieving family disgusted hit-and-run driver gets 120 days in jail

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A family shared their disgust and outrage that a drunk driver who fled the scene of a fatal hit-and-run crash will only get 120 days in jail.

Because Ronald O'Kelly fled the scene, prosecutors could not prove via blood tests his alcohol content when he struck Leroy "Buddy" Bronson in April 2013.

The man who was drunk and drove the wrong way on the Fourth of July in 2011 and killed Bronson's wife, Diane, and 11-year-old daughter, Anna, got 15 years in prison.

The difference? The 2011 driver was badly injured and couldn't flee the scene, and prosecutors could prove he was drunk based on a blood test. The 2011 driver had a public defender, while O'Kelly was represented by attorney John Picerno, who is best known for serving as defense attorney for the parents of Lisa Irwin, who was 10 months old when she went missing in October 2011.

O'Kelly also married the woman he was dating at the time, and Missouri law says you don't have to testify against a spouse in these type of cases. The woman was talking to O'Kelly on the phone at the time of the crash, and she allegedly told her father that O'Kelly was drunk when he hit Bronson.

O'Kelly pleaded guilty to fleeing the scene of an injury crash and involuntary manslaughter driving while intoxicated.

Jackson County Judge Sandra Midkiff then sentenced him to the 120 days in jail with a seven-year suspended prison sentence.

If O'Kelly violates the terms of his probation, he then faces seven years in prison.

In court, O'Kelly expressed remorse. He told the Bronson family that he thinks about the crash every day and is "super sorry about what happened."

O'Kelly, who had a prior DUI conviction, admitted to making bad choices.

Tyler Bronson said he lost his father, mother and sister to drunk drivers, and he believes the punishments were too lenient. 

"Nobody's doing anything about it. Laws aren't strict enough. And it's absurd," he said.

He said the lesson learned is if you are driving drunk then you run in order to get a light sentence if caught.

"This is horrible. This is disgusting. What is our judicial system saying? Drink? Drive? Kill somebody? Run! You're fine," Bronson said as anger and pain colored his voice.

But Midkiff and prosecutors said sometimes the evidence doesn't allow for a tough prosecution.

Bronson said he was still in disbelief after Midkiff imposed the sentence, saying such a light sentence is "unthinkable."

"I didn't think it was going to happen," he said.

He urged for changes to Missouri's drunk-driving laws.

The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against O'Kelly.

Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker issued the following statement:

The Bronson family over the last three years has had to endure two horrific and unimaginable tragedies. Two years ago, the man responsible for the deaths of Diane Bronson and 11-year-old Anna was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Today, the man responsible for the second of these tragedies was sentenced to seven years, pursuant State Statue 559.115. We share the frustration of the victim's family with today's outcome in the Buddy Bronson case. But the outcome was driven by the evidence available to the state.

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