A man has been sentenced to a 3½-year term for driving drunk, high and without a license when he broadsided a car in Minneapolis last fall and killed a cancer researcher traveling home from her second job at a hospital.
Kenneth D. Spencer Jr., 26, of Maple Grove was sentenced Thursday in Hennepin County District Court after pleading guilty to criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the collision that killed 24-year-old Ebony Miller of Minneapolis shortly after 2 a.m. Nov. 18 at SE. 10th and University avenues .
The prosecution had sought a sentence of from four years to five years and nine months.
Judge Lisa Janzen acknowledged during sentencing Spencer's acceptance of responsibility and his genuine remorse in deciding on a term near the lower of state sentencing guidelines, said County Attorney's Office spokesman Nicholas Kimball.
Defense attorney Peter Rainville wrote in a court filing earlier this week that Spencer should be spared prison and instead given probation.
"An executed sentence in prison would be unnecessarily harsh and the least productive form of punishment for a young man who merits saving rather than disposal, and whose offenses are of an unintentional nature," Rainville wrote.
With credit for time in jail after his arrest, Spencer is expected to serve just shy of two years in prison and the balance on supervised release.
Spencer had never had a Minnesota driver's license before the crash, according to the state Department of Public Safety. Since April 2018, he has been convicted five times for driving without a license in Minnesota — once while traveling 104 mph in a 50 mph zone — once for auto theft and once for fleeing police in a vehicle.
Shortly after the crash, Miller's father told a newspaper in the Bahamas, where she grew up, that his daughter was heading to her Minneapolis home from a second job as a doctor's assistant at M Health Fairview hospital when the collision occurred. Her primary work was as a pancreatic cancer researcher at the University of Minnesota in preparation for a career as a doctor.
During sentencing Thursday and before a Fox 9 television camera, Kermit Miller told the court, "I sent my child away for an education, and now she's home in a box … because of the selfish, inconsiderate actions of one individual, a habitual offender. ... There's no forgiveness for me because it was a choice he made to drive drunk, under the influence. That was a choice."
According to the criminal complaint:
Spencer told officers at the scene that he had been drinking and smoking marijuana before the crash. A test showed his blood alcohol content was "almost twice the legal limit" for driving in Minnesota. The complaint did not specify a precise level; the legal limit in Minnesota is 0.08%.
Traffic cameras showed Spencer driving into the intersection "with an obvious red light" when he hit Miller's car broadside.
Data from Spencer's car revealed that he was traveling at nearly 75 mph in a 30 mph zone at the time of impact.