One year in prison for man convicted in fatal drunk driving crash

Local News

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Wrapped in the stem of a sunflower, Christine Long’s memory shines far and wide, even though this Monday seems a little darker than most.

Beneath a road sign, there is a small cross with her name. It’s been there for years, and some close to Christine have a hard time thinking about what it says.

April 6th, 1958 – July 14th, 2017.

Chris died on the side of Darmstadt Road just north of West Boonville-New Harmony Road.

“We don’t have that shoulder to cry on,” said Long’s daughter Whitney. “We don’t get to enjoy moments that she should be there.”

Justin Declue was convicted of driving drunk and causing the fatal crash. Toxicology revealed he was more than double the legal limit.

Declue was sentenced Monday in a packed Vanderburgh County courtroom. A judge honored his plea agreement of a 4-year sentence.

Justin Declue

As part of a deal with prosecutors, Declue will spend 1 year in prison. The second year is served on home detention and the final two years on probation.

Perhaps the only thing Christine loved more than the Chicago Cubs was her family. Her two daughters were her voice in the courtroom.

“It’s not fair,” Whitney said. “It’s just a slap on the wrist, but he killed a person.”

According to a spokesperson for the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s office, a plea deal was made because of issues with evidence.

Prosecutors say the Sheriff’s Office was unable to follow protocol for alcohol-related crashes because Declue was rushed to surgery.

Officials said the outcome of the case could have been much different because of those issues.

Audrey Franks was driving in her own car just in front of Christine when the crash happened. She said Declue almost hit her car. She tried to save her friend’s life and still struggles with survivors’ guilt.

“She literally had the life taken from her because someone made a bad choice,” Franks said.

Karen Reimann-Owens was there too. The crash happened in front of her roadside farm market. Her vegetable stand hasn’t been the same since.

“They hit so hard,” she remembered. “It was pretty sad.”

“I can’t even talk about it,” Reimann-Owens said holding back a tear. “Some people can’t come to the stand because they were friends with her.”

Nothing will bring mom back, but as they leave the courthouse Whitney and her sister Kelsey know she is shining down.

“It’s like a big burden is lifted,” they said together.

There is proof even in the darkest places.

“Got to appreciate every day,” said Reimann-Owens. “You never know when it’s your time.”

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This story was originally published on August 19, 2019

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