‘Death waiting to happen’

(Originally published June 6, 2008 in the Pioneer)

By Lindsey Wahowiak

Pioneer Staff Writer

REED CITY — Tina LaGrow will spend 10 months in jail for causing her friend’s death in a drunken driving crash.
LaGrow, 34, of LeRoy, was sentenced Thursday in Osceola County’s 49th Circuit Court for causing the Oct. 28 crash that killed Mishelle McQuestion, 32, of Tustin.
“You were driving so, so fast. It was just death waiting to happen,” said Judge Scott Hill-Kennedy.
According to Michigan State Police reports, LaGrow was driving down Mackinaw Trail at speeds of 144 mph before she crashed the vehicle into a tree at 107 mph, pinning the three injured passengers inside. McQuestion, the front-seat passenger, was pronounced dead at the scene. LaGrow’s blood alcohol content was .22 at the time of the crash. The legal limit is .08.
State sentencing guidelines recommend a minimum prison term of two to five years for the charge, but the judge deviated from that substantially.
Hill-Kennedy said that while he usually has a penalty in mind before the sentencing, he was still unsure on the appropriate punishment for LaGrow. The court had received numerous letters asking for mercy, he said, and letters asking for a harsh sentence. Other factors, including LaGrow’s status as a single mother of three daughters, the fact that she and all the passengers were drinking, McQuestion’s “souped-up” car that LaGrow drove after allegedly being encouraged by the passengers and that LaGrow knew her victims all played a part in his decision.
“Frankly, I’m torn,” Hill-Kennedy said. “There’s no excuse for the loss of a life here, but there were many people partying together. It’s clear there wasn’t any opposition to someone driving.
“(LaGrow has children) and that matters. And it matters that Ms. McQuestion is no longer here,” he added. “That loss has to be reconciled by someone taking responsibility … (but) I’m not convinced a three, five, 10 or 15-year prison sentence … is going to make anyone any safer.”
In addition to her 10-month jail sentence, Hill-Kennedy also ordered LaGrow to spend 10 months wearing an alcohol-monitoring tether, serve five years of probation, pay restitution and perform 300 hours community service. A third of that service must be spent in area schools, talking about the crash, the death of her friend and how it changed her life, Hill-Kennedy added.
Prosecutor Sandra Marvin did not offer a sentencing recommendation, stating she was “deferring to the wisdom of this court.”
LaGrow entered a no contest plea to operating a vehicle while intoxicated, causing death, on May 7. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but is used as such for sentencing purposes.
People on both sides of the packed court room were crying as McQuestion’s sister, Lisa Peedle, read a statement at the hearing. She said she had moved back from Arizona to Michigan to help her family run The Rose golf course, which McQuestion co-owned. She and her family are living in McQuestion’s house. Peedle told the court her whole family and community are still suffering.
“I am a reminder of Mishelle,” she said. “It’s horrible to be around people who don’t want to be around you because they are uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say.”
LaGrow addressed the court and the McQuestion family during her sentencing. Stopping often to choke back tears, she apologized.
“I’m really, really sorry,” she said. “Not because I’m in trouble, but because we lost Mishelle. If I could change places with her, I would.”

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