EDWARDSVILLE — A Madison County courtroom erupted in applause Monday after a man who killed a beloved grandmother was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Travis S. King, 35, of New Douglas was sentenced after family members said the drunk driving accident that killed Geraldine Davis, 62, “burned a hole” in the hearts of her grandchildren.
Davis’ daughter, Dawn Ballion, said the pain was made worse by the fact that King ran away after the accident and that the body of the victim was so badly injured that authorities would not allow them one last look.
After the hearing, she said she and her other family members were happy with the sentence. King will have to serve at least 85 percent of the eight years. He has two prior felony convictions.
Vera Davis was driving a pickup truck on Interstate 270 when it was hit from the rear by a car driven by King, whose blood-alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent for a presumption of intoxication.
King pleaded guilty in December 2012 to a count of aggravated driving under the influence resulting in death. The crash also injured Vera Davis, who was thrown from the car and lay on the ground in pain watching her mother slumped motionless in the pickup truck.
“I can never get the mental pictures from that day out of my head. The things I heard while lying on the ground as Travis ran cowardly away. Why did he run with me laying just feet away? Looking at the truck multiple times to see if my mom had moved from her slumped position. Every time I looked I just kept hoping that she would move, but she never did. Right then and there I knew I had lost my mom forever,” Vera Davis said in a letter to Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli.
Ballion read letters from herself and her two sisters. She said her sister, Vera, was driving a pickup truck, and her mother was a passenger on the way to the victim’s grandsons’ soccer games.
It was 7:30 a.m., and King was driving drunk at a high rate of speed near Troy and hit the rear of the Davis pickup truck, causing the truck to overturn.
The daughters said their mother had nine grandchildren, and she never missed one of their soccer games, ball games or other events. She would take them to museums, the St. Louis Zoo, movies, water parks and so forth.
“Her grandchildren were her life,” one of her daughters, Crystal Loepker, said.
The sisters described their mother as their best friend and the best cheerleader for her grandchildren.
“She would be there at the drop of a dime,” Vera Davis said.
The women said they suffered for lack of a final goodbye because the casket was closed because of the condition of the body.
“The pain that I couldn’t even go see my mom’s body because it was so bad, no last touch, no last look, no last ‘I love you’ to any of us,” Ballion said.
King’s attorney, Jessica Koester, argued that her client had attended substance abuse counseling in the two years since the accident happened. She argued that even though King is mentally slow, he still has a job and is the sole support of his child.
She noted there was no malicious intent. She asked for the minimum three years sentence. Assistant State’s Attorney John Fischer asked for 12 years. The maximum is 14 years.
King apologized for what he had done.
“No ‘I am sorry’ will do any justice for me,” Vera Davis said.
Sanford J. Schmidt can be reached at 618-463-2558 or Twitter @sanfordjschmidt.