Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 8, 2013

Man charged in crash that killed Central Lake woman

TRAVERSE CITY — A motorist suspected of killing a Central Lake woman in a drunken driving crash had a blood-alcohol content nearly three times the legal limit in Michigan, court records show.

Diane Shafer, 37, died from injuries suffered in the Nov. 23 traffic crash along Alba Highway in Antrim County. The mother of three was a food service and preschool aide for Central Lake schools.

On Thursday, Antrim County Assistant Prosecutor James Rossiter said he approved felony drunken driving charges against Thomas Joseph Altobelli, 60, of Harrison Township.

Rossiter said evidence gathered by Michigan State Police shows Altobelli was intoxicated at the time of the crash.

"He has been charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death, operating while intoxicated causing serious injury and operating with a high blood-alcohol content," Rossiter said.

A downstate attorney, Thomas McHugh, represents Altobelli. McHugh could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The Record-Eagle on Thursday obtained a probable cause complaint against Altobelli. The court document states Shafer's husband, Paul, was driving a van west on Alba Highway at the time of the crash. Paul Shafer told authorities he was driving 35 to 40 miles per hour when he crested a rise in the road and saw a pickup coming toward him in the west lane. The vehicles collided head-on.

An accident reconstruction report indicates Altobelli's pickup tires "were either on the centerline or in the westbound lane of travel at the time of the collision."

Troopers interviewed Altobelli and "detected slurred speech and the odor of alcohol."

Two blood-alcohol tests were administered. The first test indicated a result of 0.207. The second came back at 0.23. The legal limit is 0.08 in Michigan.

Diane Shafer died Dec. 7 at Munson Medical Center. She and her husband were on their way home from a shopping trip at the time.

"We are really grieving," said Donna McGinley, Shafer's step-sister. "We want to see justice done and we are glad the charges finally went through."

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