Alton man sentenced for driving drunk, killing Wood River couple

An Alton man will serve up to 20 years in prison for driving drunk and killing two people in 2013.

Jeffrey Rynders, 29, of Alton was driving a Nissan Sentra on Landmarks Boulevard near the Clark Bridge when he failed to yield while making a left turn. He struck a motorcycle driven by Gary Wright, 66. Lora Wright, 63, was a passenger on the motorcycle. The Wood River couple were killed in the accident.

In June, Rynders pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in death, a Class 2 felony. Prosecutor Crystal Uhe asked for the maximum sentence, and Circuit Judge Kyle Napp sentenced Rynders to 10 years on each count to be served consecutively. Rynders will have to serve 85 percent of the sentence.

“Gary and Lora Wright were amazing people who surrounded themselves with an incredible family and group of friends,” said Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons. “The heartbreak and loss caused by the defendant to the Wrights and all those left behind was immeasurable. I hope and pray that this lengthy prison sentence will give them some measure of closure and an opportunity for healing from this tragedy.”

Gibbons said he also hopes the sentence will serve as a deterrent to anyone who may drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“When you hurt or kill someone, you will be punished severely and you will spend decades behind bars,” he said.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald