A week before Christmas, Marlene Horn was driving home from a late shift at St. Paul’s Senior Community Center, where she worked as a nurse.
Around the same time, 34-year-old Jason Lamb left Blarney Stone in St. Louis after at least three beers and two split pitchers of beer, according to court documents. He didn’t feel too drunk to drive, he told the court, so he drove to Columbia without any problems, then left with his niece and son for Belleville.
Driving on Illinois 158 just before midnight on Dec. 19, Lamb hit Horn head-on. The 68-year-old Millstadt woman died about an hour after the crash, never making it home to give her family the Christmas presents she had in her trunk.
“She struggled to survive alone and in the dark and in the cold in a tangled-up, metal mess all around her,” Horn’s son, Rodney Rednour, said in a victim-impact statement during the sentencing.
Lamb pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI causing death, and Judge Zina Cruse sentenced him Thursday to six months in the St. Clair County Jail. He has to serve another six months after that, but if he behaves during the first six months, it will be weekends-only jail time during the second six months. He also was sentenced to four years of probation and ordered to complete 100 hours of community service each year of his probation. He also must undergo a mental health and alcohol abuse assessment.
Three other charges filed against Lamb were dismissed: one count of aggravated DUI causing an accident and two counts of child endangerment, stemming from the two children being in Lamb’s car at the time of the crash.
Horn’s family doesn’t feel the sentence Lamb got was enough for causing a death.
“Anything less than a prison sentence will be teaching the public, and especially the young students in our area, that they can drive as drunk and careless as they want with no repercussions and fear of punishment,” Rednour wrote in his victim-impact statement.
Prosecutors asked for seven years in prison, and Lamb’s attorney, John Baricevic, asked for probation or three years in prison.
“Although some in our media may suggest otherwise, probation is not a slap on the wrist,” Baricevic said. “Probation is a reduction in liberty ... He doesn’t need incarceration.”
Lamb addressed the court and Horn’s family at the sentencing, wanting to apologize. He asked for a sentence that reunited him with his son, for whom he is a primary caregiver.
“I’ve relived the accident a million times ... and it always ends the same way,” he said. “I don’t know what to say, other than that I’m sorry ... My mistake was due to error, not malice.”
Because of mitigating factors — Lamb’s lack of a criminal history and his “history, character and attitude” — Cruse decided on a lesser sentence, saying Lamb was unlikely to commit another crime.
Rednour said he feels justice was not served.
“With six months in the county jail,” he said, “we feel that the guy is getting away with murder.”