GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - A Lowell man responsible for a deadly drunk driving accident that killed a grandfather of 17 apologized for his actions Thursday before being sentenced to prison for the November crash in eastern Kent County.
“Words cannot truly express my sorrow and remorse,’’ Michael Ray Hoogewind said. “Every day is a struggle knowing there is nothing I can do to right it; right a horrible wrong.’’
Hoogewind, 32, earlier pleaded no contest to causing the crash while driving with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit.
The Nov. 9 crash in Kent County’s Grattan Township killed David A. Cliff of Greenville, who was on his way to work. He died at the scene.
Several family members attended the sentencing dressed in T-shirts bearing Cliff’s picture.
“Dad was the patriarch of the family,’’ Cliff’s son, Dustin Johnson, told the court. “He was the glue that kept everyone together. All we have are pictures, memories and an urn with his ashes to remember him by.’’
He urged Hoogewind to use his time in prison to make a positive change.
“Your actions from here on out will define your legacy,’’ Johnson said. “Hopefully you take initiative to change. Your greatest opportunity is now. Hope you find the courage and make the best of it.’’
Kent County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Leiber sentenced Hoogewind to between six and 20 years in prison.
“If there could be any good, perhaps it will serve as a deterrence to everyone who understand and appreciate the importance of sober driving and never getting behind the wheel when one’s affected by alcohol,’’ Leiber told Hoogewind.
“In that regard, perhaps the pain that the Cliff family feels, the pain that your family feels, will somehow have a purpose,’’ Leiber said.
Hoogewind pleaded no contest March 28 to operating with a high blood alcohol content causing death with a prior conviction. The felony is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Family members say Cliff, a devoted father of five and grandfather of 17, worked as a supervisor at Mollers North America Inc. on 52nd Street SE. He and his wife of 26 years lived in Greenville.
Cliff was traveling south on Lincoln Lake Avenue when the 5:51 a.m. accident occurred. Hoogewind, who was heading west on Six Mile Road, ran a stop sign and struck Cliff’s Pontiac Grand Am in the driver’s side door.
The impact caused Cliff’s vehicle to roll; he died at the scene. Hoogewind, who was driving a 2006 Saab, was treated for minor injuries.
His blood alcohol level registered at .23 percent, according to court records. The threshold for drunken driving is .08 percent.
A Kent County deputy detected the odor of alcohol on Hoogewind, who admitted that he'd been drinking, court records show.
It is not his first alcohol-related offense. He was arrested in Kent County in Dec. 2010 for driving with a blood alcohol level of .17 percent or more. Hoogewind's driver's license was suspended in March, 2011 for a year, according to the Michigan Secretary of State's Office.
His license was not reinstated until 2013 due to violations tied to the drunk driving conviction, state records show.
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