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Addict who shot up before crash gets prison in 'deadly act of recklessness’

“It’s a wonder you didn’t just topple over dead while driving,’’ a Kent County judge told Robert Verdier before giving Verdier 7½ to 15 years in prison.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A motorist high on drugs when he slammed into another car on M-37 north of Grand Rapids, killing a retiree, was sentenced to prison for a crash the judge called “almost preordained.’’

“That is an act of recklessness that simply cannot be tolerated in a civilized society,’’ Judge Curt Benson told 30-year-old Robert Patrick Verdier.

Verdier, who has a history of drug abuse, entered a plea to operating under the influence causing death for the May 28, 2020 crash. It happened on M-37 at Ten Mile Road NW in northern Kent County.

“The accident was almost preordained,’’ Benson said. “It’s almost as if it was bound to happen. And in your heart of hearts, you know it.’’

Verdier was travelling at an estimated 100 mph. Killed in the crash was 63-year-old Kenneth E. Nietering. Nietering’s wife was injured. The couple, who lived in Dearborn, were headed to the family cottage in Lake County.

An emotional Verdier apologized to the Nietering family during Wednesday’s virtual sentencing hearing in Kent County Circuit Court.

“I never should have been on the road,’’ Verdier said through tears. “I can’t change the world, but I know I can change myself.’’

Benson sentenced Verdier to between 7½ and 15 years in prison and ordered that he pay about $3,200 in fees, fines and court costs. 

Verdier admitted to injecting drugs. He initially said he shot up while driving, but later said he injected drugs beforehand. A mixture of drugs, including fentanyl, was found in his system.

“So, the idea you would inject yourself with God knows what and get into a car,’’ Benson said. “All you knew is that you had some kind of serious drug in your system.

“It’s a wonder you didn’t just topple over dead while driving,’’ the judge said.

Defense attorney Megan Mast says her client has had a long struggle with substance abuse, but is committed to changing his ways.

Verdier, she said, is sharing his story of addiction with others “so they do not make the same mistake.’’

The crash happened the evening of May 28, 2020; a car driven by Ken Nietering was stopped for a traffic light at the intersection of M-37 and Ten Mile Road NW.

Verdier was heading north on M-37 at a high rate of speed when his vehicle slammed into Neitering’s car. Nietering died at the scene. His wife, Emily, was injured. The couple were heading to the family cottage near Baldwin at the time.

The couple, who have three sons, had recently retired. “We had planned some well-deserved retirement years together,’’ Emily Nietering told the court.

“I don’t know what I can say about the trauma of having my spouse killed in an automobile accident caused by reckless driving of the defendant,’’ she said. “Next month, in June of 2021, Ken and I would have celebrated 40 years of marriage.

"But that’s not to be.’’

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