Olivia Covington for www.theindianalawyer.com
A man convicted of killing three foreign exchange students in a violent car crash while driving drunk won’t have his 38 ½-year sentence after the Indiana Court of Appeals determined he failed to prove his sentence was inappropriate.
In Deangelo Evans v. State of Indiana, 27A02-1704-CR-826, seven Manchester University students were returning from a visit with friends at Ball State University in February 2016 when one of the tires on their van blew out. The driver moved the van to the left shoulder and turned on the hazard lights, and the students exited the van and stood in a median to wait while the tire was being change.
About 30 minutes later, other drivers observed a man later identified as Deangelo Evans driving erratically along I-69 in Delaware and Grant Counties, nearly striking two vehicles and weaving across the road. Two motorists called police to report Evans’ driving, but before they could respond he drove off the interstate and into the median were the students were standing, killing three of them. The victims – Kirubel Hailu, Brook Dagnew and Nerad Mangai – were exchange students from Africa.
Evans, who was initially unaware of the accident, did not stop until further down the road, when he felt wind blowing through his broke windshield. When police interviewed him later that afternoon, Evans admitted to drinking at a party, smoking marijuana and taking alprazolam before the accident. However, he did not remember the accident itself and attempted to shift the blame toward the students because he did not understand why they were on the left side of the road. Lab tests later showed his blood alcohol content was 0.119.
Evans then pleaded guilty to three counts of Level 4 felony operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing death, one count of Level 6 felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury and one count of Level 6 felony criminal recklessness. His sentencing hearing highlighted an extensive criminal history that included various felony drug charges and the fact that he was violating the conditions of his Illinois parole by being present in Indiana without permission at the time of the accident. As a result, he was sentenced to an aggregate of 38 ½ years out of a maximum possible sentence of 41 years.
On appeal, Evans argued that sentence was inappropriate, but the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in a Friday opinion. Judge Rudolph Pyle, writing for the appellate court, pointed to Evans’ behavior immediately before and after the accident as evidence of the appropriateness of the sentence, noting the accident was so bad it actually dismembered one of the victims, yet Evans tried to shift the blame to the students for parking on the left side of the road.
Further, Pyle wrote the evidence shows Evans had never maintained legitimate employment, but rather has stolen and gambled to make money and has used that money to purchase drugs. Those facts, couple with his extensive drug history and parole violations, make Evans’ sentence appropriate, the judge wrote.