HUDSON — It wasn't just the fact that Cody D. Carlson was high on methamphetamine when he fatally struck a Roberts motorist in 2015.
The part that troubled St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Eric Lundell most deeply was that the Appleton man was arrested again the following month on suspicion of a drug-related OWI in Chippewa County.
"You'd think one would learn from that," he said of the Nov. 8, 2015, crash that killed 61-year-old Bonny J. Britton and left two others injured.
The judge's sentiments, expressed during Carlson's Monday, July 10 sentencing echoed those as the prosecuting attorney, who said most addicts experience a wake-up call after their actions result in a death.
"That didn't happen with Cody Carlson," said St. Croix County Assistant District Attorney Erica Ellenwood.
And that, Lundell said, was what elevated Carlson's sentence to a higher echelon.
"This would be a different sentence," if not for the OWI arrest about six weeks after the crash, the judge said. "That is so significant as to cause any judge to do what I'm doing today."
Lundell then sentenced Carlson to 15 years in prison and another 15 years on extended supervision. The 20-year-old pleaded guilty in January to one count of homicide by vehicle involving a controlled substance.
The sentence followed tearful memorials of Britton, remembered as her family's "rock" and whose role as a caregiver at home extended to the work she did with disabled people.
Britton's brother-in-law, Michael Parsnow, read several letters from family members. That included a letter from his wife Thomasine Parsnow, who lamented how her sister — and best friend, she wrote — died about six months before she planned to retire.
Thomasine said in the letter that she keeps Britton's memory alive through photos on her phone and computer. But it's a hollow reminder, she said.
"She never responds anymore," Thomasine wrote of interactions with Britton that used to take place on those devices. "She just stares back at me."
A letter from Britton's brother Vincent took aim at Carlson, reminding him of the enduring loss.
"She was innocent and you took her life from her," the letter stated.
Carlson, who wept while speaking to the court at the hearing, said he was "100 percent responsible" for his actions and said he wouldn't try to seek forgiveness.
"This is my burden to bear," he said. "I am sorry for your loss and the trauma I have caused."
While he didn't seek mercy from the court, his grandmother Eileen Felix did. After apologizing to the Britton family for Carlson's actions, she described her grandson as a good person who made "some rotten choices" in the fog of drug addiction.
"This is not a young man who is evil or bad," Felix said.
Lundell turned those sympathies back on the supporters who extolled Carlson's attributes and potential.
"Where were they when you were going through all this extensive use of drugs?" the judge said. "That's what I want to know. Where were they?"
The judge said many red flags were missed on the way to an extensive criminal history that Carlson had amassed by the age of 19. Lundell made reference to Carlson's conviction sheet, which the judge said took up a full page.
"Really rare," he said. "Almost never heard-of."