MOUNT STERLING — In an emotionally charged sentencing hearing, relatives of a man killed in a 2010 vehicular crash told a defendant Wednesday that they forgive him for taking the life of their husband, father and brother.
"I am forgiving you because I know that's what the Lord would want us to do," Katherine Bush told Stewart Creekmore, 26, before his sentencing on charges of manslaughter, fetal homicide, assault and driving under the influence in Montgomery Circuit Court.
Creekmore pleaded guilty to the amended charges April 13 in the July 7, 2010, death of Henry L.C. Bush, 53, a self-employed landscaper and the husband of Katherine Bush.
Police said Creekmore ignored a traffic signal and was under the influence of prescription drugs when the vehicle he was driving struck a truck driven by Henry Bush.
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Creekmore's passenger, his girlfriend Stefanie Oatman, was pregnant and lost the 7-month-old fetus as a result of the crash. Creekmore was the father.
Had a jury convicted him of the original charges of murder, first-degree fetal homicide and first-degree assault and recommended the maximum penalty, Creekmore would have faced 50 years in prison and would not have been eligible for parole for 20 years, Judge Beth Lewis Maze said in court.
Under the plea agreement Maze approved Wednesday, Creekmore was sentenced to seven years for second-degree manslaughter, third-degree fetal homicide and second-degree assault. An additional five years was added for being a persistent felony offender. Creekmore will be eligible for parole in a little more than two years, although it's unlikely he would be paroled on his first try.
Creekmore already is serving a five-year sentence for escape from the Montgomery County jail in October 2010.
During final sentencing, Maze told Creekmore that he should be thankful the Bush family accepted the plea agreement.
"I don't think that I would be willing to accept — I know I would not be willing to accept — this plea agreement but for your wishes," Maze told the Bush family.
For his part, Creekmore broke down as he apologized to the family.
"I'm really sorry about this," Creekmore said as he stood facing the Bush family. "This will affect my life forever."
Public defender Jay Barrett said Creekmore was under the influence of prescription drugs he received from a now-closed "pill mill" in Jacksonville, Fla.
Before final sentencing, Maze heard Bush's wife, two sons, two daughters and sister give "victim impact statements" about what the loss of Henry Bush meant to them.
"He wasn't just my brother. He was my best friend," said sister Betty Jo Stull.
Henry Bush Jr. said he was in a vehicle driving behind his father's truck pulling a cattle trailer. He and a brother, Daniel, were the last to speak to their father before he died.
"Having to look him in the eye and watch him die, no one should have to do that," Henry Bush Jr. said. "How would you like to hold your dad as he took his last breath?"
He and about a dozen other relatives wore blue T-shirts that said, "In loving memory of Henry L.C. Bush Sr."
Barrett, the public defender, thanked the Bush family in open court for their expressions of forgiveness and prayers for Creekmore.
"I did not know your father. I never will," he said. "But I know that what you did today is a reflection of the man that he was."