A Hardin County man was convicted of murder Monday for driving drunk and causing a crash that killed a teenage girl in June 2014, according to media reports.
Brianna Taylor, 17, was on her way home with a friend when Michael Hilton's vehicle ran a red light and collided with Brianna's car. Brianna was killed, and her friend, Mickayla Harig, was severely injured. Hilton's twin brother, a passenger in Hilton's car, also was injured.
Hilton had a record of DUI arrests: The June 2014 DUI was his sixth, said state Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown. Hilton's blood-alcohol content was three times above the legal limit, which is 0.08 in Kentucky.
Parrett is working with state Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, to present to the House and the Senate bills that will increase the likelihood that repeated drunken driving will result in a felony charge.
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Flood prefiled her bill in honor of Lexington attorney and bicyclist Mark Hinkel, 57, who was killed by a suspected drunk driver.
Hinkel was cycling in the Horsey Hundred event on May 23 in Scott County when he was hit by an oncoming truck, according to police. Hinkel landed on the truck bed cover, and the driver allegedly went about 3 miles with Hinkel on the cover before the truck was stopped by police.
Odilon Paz-Salvador, 29, has been charged with murder and has pleaded not guilty. He told officers after his arrest that he had nine previous DUIs, most that occurred more than five years ago.
The fourth DUI during a five-year period is a felony in Kentucky, but after five years, a person's DUI count resets. A driver could be charged every five years, and each time it would be considered the driver's first offense.
Without the five-year reset, Paz-Salvador might have been in prison, and Mark Hinkel would be alive today, said Bennett Bayer, Hinkel's friend and a fellow lawyer.
Hilton's history was similar to Paz-Salvador's. Brianna's parents were among those who asked for the maximum sentence for Hilton, according to The News Enterprise.
"I pity a 35-year-old man who has been given as many opportunities to straighten his life out and chose to ignore every single one of them," Brianna's mother, Tonya Taylor said, according to The News Enterprise. "I pity a human being that has multiple DUIs that he has had and he's not chosen to learn a lesson from it. ... And I beg you, don't let this happen to another family. Don't let him take another life."
The jury deliberated for 3½ hours before convicting Hilton of murder, first-degree assault for Mickayla's injuries, second-degree assault for Hilton's twin brother's injuries, first offense aggravated DUI, and first-degree persistent felony offender.
The jury recommended a life sentence for the murder charge, 35 years for the first-degree assault, 10 years for the second-degree assault and 30 days for the DUI charge, The News Enterprise reported.
Hilton's mother, Debbie Carr, testified that Hilton's problems can be traced to his alcoholic and abusive father.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 11.