LAPORTE | A 16-year sentence was handed Thursday afternoon to a Michigan City man for killing a woman and seriously injuring two children riding with her in an accident.
John Mikle, 36, was ordered to spend 12 years of the sentence in prison and the balance on probation under a guilty plea accepted by LaPorte Circuit Court for Class B felony operating while intoxicated causing death and two counts of Class D felony operating while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury.
Eric Atkins, the father of the deceased woman, told Mikle if he doesn't come out of prison unchanged and without remorse it would be a disgrace to the lives of everyone impacted by the tragedy and even his own family.
"If you have no remorse for what you did I pray for God's mercy upon your soul," said Atkins.
His daughter, Katie Atkins, 26, of Valparaiso, died in the crash in July that nearly claimed the lives of 7-year old Neilah Maule and 5-year-old Jaidyn Maule.
According to court documents, Atkins was taking the girls to their grandmother's house in LaPorte when hit head on by an SUV driven by Mikle after he crossed the center line on Joliet Road near Westville.
Police said Mikle was under the influence of PCP.
Atkins was the girlfriend of Sam Maule, the father of the girls, who are both still recovering from their injuries.
The most seriously injured was Neilah, who with a severe brain injury surprised doctors by breathing on her own after taken off a respirator.
Mikle seated next to his attorney, Julianne Havens, offered a soft-spoken apology and often looked down as family members of the victims told about how the accident has changed their lives.
"I'm absolutely sorry for the incident that occurred," said Mikle.
Atkins with his voice cracking with emotion said he felt the court, by accepting the terms of the plea, was showing mercy toward Mikle.
He also said the four years Mikle will serve on probation should be added to his prison time because he tried hiding from the police when they showed up with a warrant after the crash to take him into custody and he was driving without insurance, forcing the families of the survivors to grapple with the exorbitant medical expenses.
"The medical bills will go on for the life of these children due to the injuries," said Atkins.
Maule told stories about the tremendous support from the community that helped him and his daughters along with family and friends through the ordeal even as he paced the hospital floors.
He said a good friend of his is now pushing for legislation calling for tough penalties for accidents caused by impaired drivers.
"Substance abuse is only part of the problem and one we can't easily solve, but with enough support behind us we will," said Maule. who took a moment to inform Mikle just how much damage and suffering was inflicted by his poor decision making.
He also said Katie will live forever in their hearts.
"The love she showed to my children has left an impact far greater than this one act of evil," Maule said.