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NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) -- It was an emotional scene in Floyd County Superior Court Friday afternoon, as a man who admitted to causing the death of a southern Indiana philanthropist in a DUI crash was sentenced.
In Nov. 2011, police say Wesley Bradshaw was driving his Toyota on State Road 111 near New Albany, when he crossed the center line and struck another vehicle nearly head-on.
The vehicle was driven by Kevin Hammersmith, a manager at Duke Energy. Hammersmith was also a member of the parks board and One Southern Indiana, as well as a former Harvest Homecoming president.
Hammersmith was killed in the accident.
Police say Bradshaw denied drinking but admitted to taking a Percocet earlier in the day.
On Aug. 9, Bradshaw pled guilty to Causing Death When Operating a Motor Vehicle with a Scheduled I or II Controlled Substance.
Friday afternoon, at his sentencing hearing, Bradshaw had something to say to the victim's family. And they had something to say to him -- and the state of Indiana.
Tamera Hammersmith Persinger, the victim's sister, rose to tearfully address the court.
"I miss my brother," Persinger said, her voice shaking. "There is not a day that goes by that I don't remember him in some way." She said she remembers him every time she sees a Duke Energy truck, or hears stains of jazz music.
"Kevin lived his life to the fullest. He worked hard. He played hard," Persinger said. "This was a wise choice because he only got 52 years."
Persinger then turned to address the defendant directly, as he looked straight at her.
"Mr. Bradshaw, you had a choice that day," she said. "You've admitted that it was a bad choice."
"I could hate you for what you've done, but I forgive you," Persinger said. "It is now in your hands to turn this around...I pray that you will learn that you too can live your life to the fullest."
After encouraging Bradshaw to turn his life around, Persinger had a message for the state of Indiana. She said the state of Indiana had a choice to make, and that it has ignored the dangers on Hwy. 111. She then called on the state to widen the road and install cable barriers to avoid future accidents.
Bradshaw also had a chance to address Hammersmith's family.
"I would like to tell the victim's family that I'm sorry," he said through tears, adding that, "I think about it every day."
Judge Susan Orth sentenced him to 15 years, with 12 years to serve. She said the earliest date he would be eligible for parole would be Nov. 19, 2017.
Judge Orth also told Bradshaw that she hoped he would seek treatment while incarcerated.
"He made a mistake," a tearful Persinger told reporters after the sentencing. "He's admitted to his mistake. Our family could choose to hate him for that, but it's far better for us and it's far better for him to show forgiveness for what he's done. He's asked us for forgiveness and hopefully he will live up to that."
Persinger also renewed her call for improvements on the road her brother died on.
"I just think that it's another concern that we have as a community, that we do that this very, very busy road -- Highway 111 -- that we have had so many accidents and so many people killed, but yet the state chooses to do very little about it," she said. "And something needs to happen there, because I really don't want anyone else to have to go through what we've had to for the last 21 months."
"The road could be widened," Persinger said. "It's going to cost, but I think with Horseshoe Casino there and the money they've put into the community, of course they could do that. The barriers could be put in."
Just before walking away from reporters for a private consultation with Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson, Persinger had another message for Bradshaw.
"My hope is -- my prayer is -- that when he's released and he goes back to his community, that he will choose to make some differences in his own life and do the right thing. Then his family won't see him as this person that was taken away to prison today. They'll see someone who has made a change that they can be proud of."