PRINCETON — Gibson Superior Court Judge Robert Krieg sentenced Kent A. Hayenga Wednesday to three years of probation after Hayenga pleaded guilty last month to a felony count of reckless homicide stemming from a fatal May 2017 crash on U.S. 41.
Hayenga, 69, of Linn Grove, Iowa, appeared in court Wednesday, where members of the family of Devin Cyr, who was killed in the crash, testified for more than an hour about the impact of losing their son.
Hayenga was originally charged with felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide following the May 6, 2017, crash at U.S. 41’s traffic signal at County Road 100 West.
His southbound semi-trailer hit the back of the sport utility vehicle driven by Cyr, 20, of Remington, who was killed in the crash, and another car driven by Dylan Barnes, 22, Mount Carmel, Illinois, who was injured.
Hayenga was also initially charged with a misdemeanor count of reckless driving and infractions for driving too fast for conditions, failure to comply with federal motor carrier safety regulations and exceeding maximum weight limit on a heavy-duty highway.
Last month, the prosecution agreed to dismiss the other charges upon Hayenga’s sentencing. The reckless homicide charge carries a potential sentence of one to six years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000, with an advisory sentence of three years.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Abigail Cox presented a video memorializing the death of Cyr, a University of Evansville mechanical engineering student who worked as a camera man for ESPN3.
Cyr's father, a former truck driver, testified that he knows what a "tremendous responsibility it takes being a truck driver, with 8,000 pounds going down the road. It can be a disaster waiting to happen. There is no room for complacency," he told the judge.
He described his son as his best friend, "an amazing kid," and said he now he can only "look forward to the day we can be together again, but until that day, there will always be a void."
Cyr's sister Olivia said her brother was "the best friend that God could put in my life," telling the judge that the loss "takes your breath away."
His mother Julie Cyr, who was diagnosed with cancer after the fatal crash, said there's "immense sadness" in her family with the loss. "This is all just crazy," she said. She told the judge that she and her husband worked very hard as parents to teach their children about consequences, and said the consequences of Hayenga's actions "are sure affecting our family and, I'm sure they're affecting his family...
"Some good has to come out of this," she said.
A financial settlement outside of the criminal case was reached, Cox told the judge, also noting that Hayenga is now nearly 70 years old and has given up his license.
Defense co-counsel Shaunda Lynch told the Cyr family that she has experienced the impact of loss from the actions of a drunk driver. She said in her client's case, Hayenga had no drugs or alcohol in his system. "He very well could have had a diabetic episode, and he is seeking treatment for that," she said.
"He is a remorseful man."
Lynch said Hayenga has since retired from driving, forfeited his CDL license, reconciled with family members and expedited this case as quickly as possible to spare the family further trauma.
She asked the judge for a probated sentence, since Hayenga has no prior criminal record and was not under the influence of any drug or alcohol.
"There is really nothing I can do but follow the law," Judge Krieg told the Cyr family. He said he could find no aggravating factors, and there are mitigating factors to consider in the sentencing, including the open plea to the court, "he wasn't high and he wasn't drunk" and he had no prior criminal record.
The judge imposed the three-year sentence, suspended with credit for time served while the case was pending, and ordered Hayenga to check in with the Gibson County Probation Department. "I hope you understand you have a short leash for three years," he told Hayenga.