Robert Van Winkle was driving drunk when he crashed near Springville. His 17-year-old brother Jacob died. He was supposed to graduate from high school that same day.
22-year-old Robert Van Winkle stared blankly after a judge told him he would spend a year in county jail for killing his brother in a car crash back in June. Van Winkle was behind the wheel and had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit when he crashed his car into a tree on North Balch Park Road near Springville. The crash killed his 17-year-old brother Jacob, who was supposed to graduate from Porterville High School later that day. Family members cried in court as they told the judge how much the crash has changed their lives.
Bill Van Winkle: "The timing could not be worse ... just shattered my family."
Sara Sumpter: "Our lives were turned upside down that day jacob was supposed to graduate."
Before the judge sentenced Van Winkle, family and friends pleaded for leniency.
Sundari Allen: "I know with everything I have that he has done what he can to make amends and will never do this again."
Lauren Van Winkle: "He's a good son and like any son they do wrong things sometimes but I don't think he's ever going to forget what happened."
Justin Adams: "I've lost Jake and I don't want to lose Robert he's like my brother everything I have I go to him."
Prosecutor Todd Zocchi painted a different picture of what happened that night. Asking the judge to sentence Van Winkle to state prison, Zocchi said Van Winkle had been warned by law enforcement before about drinking and driving and he decided to take the risk anyway.
"Instead his 17-year-old brother is dead; somebody this defendant should have been looking out for," said Zocchi.
In the end Judge Brett Aldredge sentenced Robert Van Winkle to one year in county jail, adding that the case is unique because the victim and suspect were brothers.
Robert Van Winkle must complete a DUI program and get substance abuse treatment following his sentence. He'll turn himself in to authorities to serve that one year sentence on December 10th.