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Watertown man sentenced to up to four years in prison for 2011 drunken-driving crash

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Jeanne A. Sample, Schenectady, told a Jefferson County judge on Monday her family will never be the same after her brother’s life was taken last year by a drunken driver in an accident near his Hadcock Road home.

In a Jefferson County courtroom Monday morning, Kristian M. Loftus, 36, was sentenced to 113 to 4 years in state prison after pleading guilty to second-degree vehicular manslaughter in the July 15, 2011, accident that killed his friend and neighbor, Richard S. “Scotty” Sample, 52, of 21019 Hadcock Road in the town of Watertown.

Mr. Loftus, of 20740 Hadcock Road, admitted in court Monday that he was drunk at the time of the crash in which his pickup truck collided with Mr. Sample’s motorcycle, just a short distance from their homes. Mr. Sample died at the scene.

Because of that tragedy, her brother was not there to console the family when their mother, Sally J. Sample, died just a month ago at age 83, Jeanne Sample said before the sentencing. Ms. Sample told County Judge Kim H. Martusewicz her mother’s health deteriorated quickly after her brother’s death.

“He would have been there for us during that difficult time,” Ms. Sample said.

And Mr. Sample’s fiancée, Penny I. McKenna, was the one left telling his elderly parents he had died that night.

Patricia L. Dziuba, senior assistant district attorney, read from the fiancée’s victim statement that she rushed to the scene because he had just left their Hadcock Road home 10 minutes before and feared for the worst. When she got there, Ms. McKenna was told by an emergency medical technician and mutual friend that Mr. Sample was involved in the crash and he died. His body remained at the scene hours after the accident, Ms. McKenna wrote.

That night changed her life forever, she wrote.

“You never know when you’re going to die,” she wrote.

Since that night, she’s had to go to court to straighten out the financial mess the tragedy caused because they had not yet gotten married. She’s had to fight to keep the home she and her fiancé had shared and were in the middle of renovating, she wrote.

Before imposing the sentence, Judge Martusewicz told the defendant he caused so much sorrow for the victim’s family and his own. Mr. Loftus could have avoided the tragedy by simply deciding not to get into the truck after he had been drinking.

He urged Mr. Loftus to keep his promise that he will never touch a drop of alcohol after he finishes serving his sentence and gets out of prison.

“For some reason, God has given you another chance for life,” the judge told him.

Before the sentencing, Mr. Loftus said he was sorry for what he had done and accepted responsibility for it. He said he wished he did not get into his truck after drinking with some friends following a round of golf earlier in the day.

Pausing for a moment, Mr. Loftus wiped his tears before saying he watched his neighbor take his last breath. He then turned to the family members and assured them their loved one didn’t suffer before he died.

“I would switch places if I could,” he said.

By then, members of both families were crying.

Before Monday’s court proceeding, Mr. Sample’s family had agreed to the sentencing’s terms as long as Mr. Loftus did not get the minimal one to three years in state prison, Ms. Dziuba said later. He faced a maximum sentence of two to seven years. Mr. Loftus also was ordered to pay $6,061 in restitution to the family for funeral costs.

While consoling the family after the sentencing, the prosecutor’s eyes teared up.

“It’s tough to watch the family suffer,” she said.

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