GREENFIELD — The speedy conviction of a teenage drunken driver who struck and killed a New Palestine woman last year garnered state recognition this week Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Three county prosecutors and a local judge were presented with certificates of excellence from the advocacy group Wednesday during the Hancock County Council meeting.
Lael Hill, a representative and victim advocate for the state’s chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the organization wanted to recognize Hancock County for the strictness of its judicial system with those who climb behind the wheel while intoxicated.
Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Marie Castetter were honored for the plea agreement they forged to put 18-year-old Timothy Hughes in prison for nine years.
Hughes struck and killed 22-year-old Carla McCloud in August while driving home drunk from an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. McCloud had been out riding her bike at the time of crash with her cousin, Amanda Wheeler, who was seriously injured but survived.
Hancock County Superior Court 2 Judge Dan Marshall and deputy prosecutor David Thornburg were also recognized for their work keeping drunk drivers off the county’s streets.
About 500 people are booked into the Hancock County Jail on a charge of operating while intoxicated each year, and those defendants typically end up in Hancock County Superior Court 2 to face their charges. More than 60 percent of the defendants are convicted, officials said, with Thornburg fighting for a guilty plea as the lead attorney for the state in that court and Marshall on the bench handing down a sentence.
“I’m very proud of this county,” Hill said. “I work in all 92 counties, and this one really stands out as one of the best.”
Hill said she was specifically impressed by how quickly the prosecutor’s office was able to close Hughes’ case and deliver the maximum sentence allowable under Indiana law.
Hughes was arrested in August after the crash. He was 17 years old at the time. He pleaded guilty six months later to six felonies and one misdemeanor, including a count of reckless homicide.
The state chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving wrote a letter to the judge supporting a strict punishment for Hughes. Hughes is now serving a nine-year sentence in an Indiana Department of Correction facility.
Eaton said his team’s priority in the case was bringing some peace to McCloud’s family. Having the case come a close quickly was a testament to air-tight evidence investigators gathered after the crash, he said.
Any accolade for the work in preventing drunken driving belongs to all members of law enforcement, Thornburg said.
“I see myself as just a small part of the overall justice system,” Thornburg said. “This is my way of helping keep the community safe.”