GREENSBURG, Pa. (KDKA/AP) – A man will spend at least 12 years in prison on third-degree murder, drunken driving and other charges for a wrong-way crash that killed a western Pennsylvania police officer.
Clair Fink III was sentenced Tuesday by a Westmoreland County judge.
The 33-year-old Ligonier man pleaded guilty in September in the head-on crash along Route 30 that killed Ligonier Township Police Lt. Eric Eslary in May 2015. The crash left Eslary’s police dog injured.
Prior to sentencing, Fink apologized to the family again and asked the judge for the maximum sentence.
Eslary’s widow, Mary Beth, was the last to speak during the sentencing hearing.
“I lost my best friend, I lost my laughter. He took my life, my career, my family from me. I appreciate the man for his apology, but I don’t forgive him,” she said.
After the hearing, she said, “I have no mercy for him. I don’t feel sorry. My world has changed dramatically. My feelings and emotions are gone, and I did lose my soul that night on Route 30.”
Eslary’s daughter, Morgan, also spoke and asked the judge for leniency.
“We hate what Clair Fink took away from us – our dad. But we forgive him. It doesn’t me we don’t care about our father,” she said.
After the sentencing, Fink spoke with reporters about what Eslary’s family had said.
“It’s going to be hard for myself to forgive myself. I wake up every day and go to sleep with it on my conscience every day. There’s no medicine, there’s no therapy, there’s no help to cope through it, or deal with it. I can’t even imagine what she feels like and especially the children,” Fink said.
He also said an appeal is not likely.
“Probably not, because I feel this is a good punishment, and like I said, I asked the judge – I wanted the higher of the sentence because I really don’t feel that somebody that drinks and drives should be able to say, ‘Hey, I was drunk and I didn’t mean what I did,’ and walk away from it and get 3-6 years,” Fink said.
Prosecutors say Fink and a co-worker had spent the night drinking before the crash on Route 30.
Fink has apologized to Eslary’s family. His widow is raising six children who survive in their blended family.
Fink’s sentence is 12 to 30 years in prison. The third-degree murder charge, the most serious Fink faces, carried up to 40 years in prison.
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