Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 20, 2013

Family of woman killed by drunk driver: 'It's just not fair'

BELLAIRE — Paul Shafer had questions for the drunk driver who killed his wife and mother of his three children.

Did he know what it's like to take his children to a graveyard on Mother's Day?

Did he know what it's like to have a young daughter ask, "'I don't have a mommy anymore?'"

Shafer asked these questions to Thomas Altobelli, 60, of Harrison Township, during Altobelli's sentencing hearing Monday stemming from the Nov. 23 death of Shafer's wife, Diane Shafer, 37. Authorities said Altobelli was driving drunk when his vehicle collided head-on into the Shafer family vehicle.

Shafer, supported by family and friends, begged 13th Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power to sentence Altobelli to the maximum 15 years in prison for operating while intoxicated causing death.

"I understand the guidelines for sentencing, but there is no justification for Diane’s death," he said.

Judge Power ultimately sentenced Altobelli to three to 15 years in prison.

Altobelli entered a no contest plea to a charge of operating while intoxicated causing death. He expressed remorse for the crime during Monday's hearing.

“I’ve been thinking about this since the day it happened and … I’m just so incredibly sorry for what’s happened and for the hurt and pain that I’ve caused you," Altobelli said. "From the deepest part of my heart, I hope you believe that."

The Shafers and two of their daughters were returning home to Central Lake from Christmas shopping on the day of the crash. Authorities said Altobelli's vehicle crossed the centerline on Alba Highway and crashed into the Shafers' van about 4 p.m.

Antrim County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney James Rossiter said Altobelli registered a .23 blood-alcohol content, which he said indicated Altobelli consumed close to 12 drinks. Accident reconstruction placed Altobelli's vehicle entirely or almost entirely in the Shafer vehicle's lane.

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