By Joe Bachman
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — A 31-year-old Wisconsin Rapids man has been sentenced to 24 years imprisonment for the vehicular homicides of two New Lisbon women.
On Oct. 25, 2016, an accident involving two vehicles reported on State Highway 80 caused the deaths of 71-year-old Barbara Baldwin, and 74-year-old Louise Hemingway, of New Lisbon. According to reports, a 1998 Jeep Cherokee, driven by then 30-year-old Gregory Kopelke, had been driving north on 80 and failed to negotiate the curve, crossed the centerline, and hit the driver and passengers of the other vehicle in a 2009 Pontiac Vibe head on.
A third passenger sustained major injuries as a result of the crash. Kopelke was found to have 230 ug/L of methamphetamine in his system. At the time, Kopelke had been driving illegally, as his privileges had been revoked due to prior convictions.
In regards to Kopelke, a family member of the victim told Judge Gregory Potter that “he will never forgive him” for his actions.
District Attorney Craig Lambert called for a total sentence of 20 years imprisonment, with 10 years extended supervision.
“[Kopelke] is a danger to the community,” said Lambert. “He can’t be trusted to stay clean and sober.”
The defense pointed out Kopelke’s consistent track record of keeping employment, and a solid relationship with his son. They recommended 15 years total imprisonment, with 15 years extended supervision.
“We believe Greg is not beyond rehabilitation.”
“I feel very horrible,” said Kopelke in his statement to the judge. “What happened eats me alive — I have to live with this the rest of my life.”
However, according to Potter, a harsher penalty needed to be handed out under the circumstances where two lives were taken, a third was forever changed due to injuries, and the added pain and loss of the victim’s families.
“I don’t believe this was an accident,” Potter stated. “You intentionally used drugs, and intentionally got behind the wheel.”
Kopelke was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment, and 26 years of extended supervision in total.