A man whose drunk driving killed a woman in front of her children was sentenced to seven years in prison Thursday afternoon.
Steven Willis, 39, of Maryville pleaded guilty in March to one count of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, resulting in death. Willis was driving a 2014 Chevrolet northbound on Interstate 55 at about 8 p.m. on Oct. 22, 2015, when he hit Samantha Miller’s car, which was broken down by the side of the road.
One woman protested and was removed from court because she said the sentence was not long enough.
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Miller, 27, was attempting to repair the car while her three children waited inside it. Miller was pronounced dead at the scene, and the children sustained injuries.
A News-Democrat investigation showed that Willis received at least 40 traffic citations from 1994 to 2016 in Madison and St. Clair Counties. Most of those citations resulted in court supervision, so they never affected his official driving record.
The DUI charge is a class 2 felony, which carries a sentence of 3-14 years. Willis must serve 85 percent of his sentence.
Willis has already settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of her children. The suit was filed by the children’s father, Joshua Miller, against Willis and the Hangar, a tavern near Willis’ employer at the time, Jet Aviation Inc. The suit was settled by the various insurance companies in May 2016, with various payouts approximating $500,000 toward the care and education of the children.