Bryan sentenced to 28 years for DWI, murder

Victim's daughter: “Did you think that you had some right to gamble with my father’s life?”

Damien Bryan is escorted into a Cole County courtroom for sentencing Friday, March 8, 2013. He was convicted Oct. 12, 2012, on two counts of second-degree murder in connection with driving while intoxicated by a jury in Camden County on a change of venue.

Damien Bryan is escorted into a Cole County courtroom for sentencing Friday, March 8, 2013. He was convicted Oct. 12, 2012, on two counts of second-degree murder in connection with driving while intoxicated by a jury in Camden County on a change of venue.

Damien Bryan was sentenced Friday to 28 years in prison, for his conviction of driving while intoxicated and second-degree, felony murder charges for an Aug. 31, 2011, traffic accident that killed Donald A. Edwards, 58, Russellville, and Joan D. Hamilton, 75, Lenexa, Kan.

Cole County Presiding Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce ordered Bryan to serve 25 years for each murder conviction — to be served at the same time — with the additional three years for the DWI conviction to begin after he finishes the 25-year sentences.

Special Prosecutor Amanda Grellner said Bryan, now 42, will serve at least 23 years in prison. State law requires him to serve at least 85 percent of the sentences before he even is eligible for parole.

Grellner acknowledged many of the victims’ survivors wanted more.

“Given the age that Mr. Bryan will be by the time he is actually parole-eligible,” she told reporters, “yes, I think it was an appropriate sentence.”

The accident happened at the intersection of Route C and South Country Club Drive, at 10:45 a.m. on a Wednesday.

The original Highway Patrol report said Bryan, driving north in a 1981 Ford F-150 truck, tried to cross the two-lane Route C, but failed to yield to Hamilton’s eastbound 2004 Lexus.

As he drove into the intersection, Bryan’s truck hit the passenger side of the Lexus, causing it to overturn into the path of Edwards’ westbound 1995 Chevy Blazer.

Edwards died in the collision.

Hamilton was taken to Capital Region Medical Center for treatment, but died there.

In her victim’s impact statement to the court, Hamilton’s daughter, Pam Darrington, said her mom “had a generous heart ... loved unconditionally, lived her life with dignity, courage and grace, no matter the circumstances.”

Six months before the accident, Hamilton had “reconnected with my father, was happier than I had ever seen her in awhile — maybe than I ever had,” Darrington said.

Darrington never spoke directly to Bryan, but noted her mother’s “death, and the death of Mr. Edwards, could have been prevented if it wasn’t for the reckless behavior of one individual who, through the proceedings, has shown disdain for our justice system (and) lack of respect or remorse for the pain of the families and friends.”

Edwards’ youngest and oldest daughters also delivered impact statements, telling Joyce about Edwards’ long career as a Corrections officer, how he “never met a stranger” and always worked to respect other people — even those he saw daily inside the prison system.

The younger daughter, Amy Schwartz, told Bryan the 2011 accident forced her children to learn “the hardest lesson in life in the worst possible way — they now know that horrible things happen to good people. ... They also know, without any doubt, that the choices you make can affect every one around you, for a life time.”

Perhaps most importantly, she said, all learned that “an accident is something that is uncontrollable (but) this was absolutely avoidable.”

Edwards’ oldest daughter, Betsey Browning, reminded Bryan the two deaths happened because of the actions of “an out-of-control drug addict,” then asked: “How would you feel” if you lost a family member?

“Or would you feel at all? Do you care? Do you have anybody in your life who is as special to you as my dad was to me?”

She wondered if Bryan ever thought of anyone besides himself.

“Did you think that you had some right to gamble with my father’s life?” Browning asked. “Or were you just trying to figure out where you could get your next fix?”

All three women spoke of the future holidays, birthdays, weddings, graduations and other events and people the victims would miss because of their deaths.

Bryan read a statement saying “how deeply sorry I am about the accident.”

Losing a parent, he said, “would devastate me.”

Bryan added: “I’ve always taken responsibility for the accident. I did not see Mrs. Hamilton’s vehicle — I was concentrating on Mr. Edwards’ vehicle.”

But in her statement, Darrington reminded Joyce that investigators determined Bryan “had six full seconds to look both ways before he proceeded through the stop sign (and) caused the deaths of two innocent, caring people.”

Bryan said he also has nightmares, suffers from PTSD and anxiety, and is depressed.

Noting his parents now are raising his children, Bryan apologized to his own family “for the position I’ve put them in (and) for not being there when they need it. ... I made a mistake, and it’s affected everyone.”

But Browning told reporters after the sentencing that Bryan “has shown us time and time again (his) same, flippant ‘I have no remorse and I don’t care’ attitude.”

Although the Hamilton and Edwards families had not met before the accident, Browning said, they have become “one family. We have traveled a horrific road for the last almost two years. ... My dad and Mrs. Hamilton were an awful lot alike, in many ways — they could have been family.

“They were wonderful people — loved everyone, free spirit, help anybody in the world — they were both like that.”

Earlier report, posted at 3:06 p.m. Friday:

Damien Bryan was sentenced this afternoon to 28 years in prison for his conviction of felony murder charges for killing Donald A. Edwards, 58, Russellville, and Joan D. Hamilton, 75, Lenexa, Kan., in an Aug. 31, 2011, traffic accident, and for driving while intoxicated.

Cole County Presiding Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce ordered Bryan to serve 25 years for each murder charge, at the same time, with the additional three years for the DWI conviction to begin after he finishes the 25-year sentences.

The accident happened at 10:45 a.m. at the intersection of Route C and South Country Club Drive.

The original Highway Patrol report said Bryan, driving northbound in a 1981 Ford F-150 truck, failed to yield to Hamilton’s eastbound 2004 Lexus, as Bryan tried to cross Route C.

Bryan’s truck hit the passenger side of the Lexus, causing it to overturn into the path of Edwards’ westbound 1995 Chevy Blazer.

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