A man was sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison for a drunken-driving crash that killed three people in Colorado Springs last year.
“I just wish I could take it back,” Austin Robert Weisse, 31, said in a tearful apology before 4th Judicial District Judge Larry E. Schwartz, who called it the deadliest drunken-driving case in his 21 years on the bench.
Weiss pleaded guilty in October to three counts of vehicular homicide and one count of driving under the influence.
Authorities say he was driving recklessly at nearly double the 40-mph speed limit on July 27, 2017, when his Jeep slammed into a Honda minivan at Galley and Babcock roads on the city’s east side. Killed were both occupants of the minivan, James and Danya Daily, and Trevor Weisse, a passenger in the Jeep and the driver’s brother. Austin Weisse was severely injured.
Weisse’s blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.15 percent, nearly twice the 0.08 percent legal limit for drivers in Colorado.
At least five witnesses said Weisse was either speeding or changing lanes abruptly as he passed them before the crash. One said he was “flipping off” other motorists. Another said he appeared to be “jamming out” to music, which blared from the Jeep, prosecutor John Percell said.
A police accident reconstruction investigator determined that Weisse was traveling up to 75 mph in a 40-mph zone at the time, Percell said.
James and Danya Daily were longtime residents of Colorado Springs who had been married 47 years, according to an obituary published in The Gazette. James Daily, 76, was a Vietnam War veteran who later worked as a real estate agent. Danya Daily, 73, was a stay-at-home mother and a substitute teacher.
“He stole the only grandparents my children will ever know,” said their daughter, Victoria Budrejko of Colorado Springs.
The defendant’s mother, Kathy Weiss, said Austin Weisse struggles from cognitive delays he suffered in the womb from a traffic crash when she was pregnant. She described late son Trevor Weisse, 31, as a “free spirit” and minimalist who kept few material possessions but had “thousands of friends.”
Trevor Weisse, a photographer by trade, had arrived in Colorado Springs one day before the crash, intending to stay here, she said.
With one son gone and another bound for prison, “I will never have the joy of having grandchildren,” she added.
In crafting his sentence, Schwartz said he took into consideration Weisse’s lack of prior drunken-driving offenses and his cognitive impairments. But the severity of the crash demanded a prison sentence, as punishment and to discourage other drivers from behaving so recklessly, he said.
“No amount of remorse is going to cure that,” Schwartz said.