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January 19, 2013

Decatur skips sentencing

Driver who injured cab passengers later surrenders

TRAVERSE CITY — Kayla Casciano and Amanda Aldrich still carry the pain and burden of Ryan Decatur's alcohol-fueled joy ride.

Witnesses said Decatur, 22, tore down Front Street at speeds that reached about 60 miles per hour when he smashed into a cab that carried Casciano and Aldrich in the Union Street intersection. The Oct. 20 crash left Casciano, 22, with a severe neck injury and Aldrich, 22, with knee and shoulder injuries.

Casciano had surgery and still can't drive, and Aldrich continues to undergo physical therapy. Both missed work, and Aldrich missed significant class time at Northwestern Michigan College.

Decatur, who was free on bond after pleading guilty in December to a single count of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury, didn't show up for his sentencing Friday morning. He previously skipped a scheduled meeting with court officials, which caused a judge to issue a warrant for his arrest.

His apparent lax attitude toward court proceedings adds insult to injury, Aldrich said.

"We just want it to be over," she said. "To me, it seems like he's not being very responsible about it."

Decatur's attorney, Janet Mistele, told 13th Circuit Judge Philip E. Rodgers that Decatur's absence was a "misunderstanding" instead of a deliberate ploy to evade authorities. Rodgers told her to have him surrender as soon as possible.

"He knew today was the date for sentencing, and one way or another he should have been here," Rodgers said. "He needs to turn himself in promptly. Every day that goes by that he doesn't turn himself in is another day for (prosecutors) to charge him with absconding."

Decatur, of Long Lake Township, surrendered by mid-day Friday.

After the crash he told officers he was "booze cruising" in an area where he believed he wouldn't be pulled over, according to a police report. He started drinking whiskey as he was driving around, then switched to vodka. He had a roughly 0.19 blood alcohol content when tested after the crash.

Aldrich tries to avoid holding a grudge.

"I don't want to say I'm mad at the guy, but it's unfortunate that he made the decision that he did without thinking of anybody but himself," she said.

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