Michigan Truck Driver Gets Four Year Jail Sentence for Taylor University Crash

By Jeff Neumeyer

June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 14, 2007 at 6:16 PM EDT

A Michigan truck driver could be out of prison in a little over a year, based on a sentence handed down Tuesday in the deaths of five people in a Taylor University van crash.

Reporter Jeff Neumeyer covered the sentencing hearing for Indiana's NewsCenter.

NEUMEYER: "38-year old Robert Spencer could have gotten 24 years maximum, but Judge Brian Hutchison opted for 8 years instead, only four years executed jail time.

With all good time credits involved, Spencer could be released from prison September first of next year.

Spencer had nothing to say as he was whisked out of the courthouse.

He had said in the courtroom, he was sorry for the pain he'd caused, wished he could turn back the clock and change everything but that he can't do that.

Spencer was driving a semi northbound on I-69 in Grant County in April 2006, fell asleep at the wheel and drifted across the median to strike a Taylor University van, killing four students and a staff member and injuring four others.

There was evidence Spencer falsified log books, covering the fact he didn't get the required amount of sleep leading up to the crash.

The prosecutor and victims’ family members advocated for the maximum sentence to send a clear message that such reckless and negligent behavior wouldn't be tolerated.

But they had to leave the courtroom less than satisfied with the result.

James Luttrull/Grant County Prosecutor: "They're cognizant of more than any of us can imagine, the loss that they've suffered and I think they were hoping for a stronger sentence. Why couldn't the truck simply have gone off the road into a ditch? And that's a question that we're all probing and trying to answer."

None of the relatives of the victims had anything to say following the hearing.

Luttrull said it might be time to re-visit Indiana laws pertaining to truck drivers falsifying log books and that possibly a tougher line should be taken on trucking companies that pressure drivers to make deliveries without adequate rest.

But those actions will have no effect on Spencer's case, who could be a free man in about twelve months.

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