MICHIGAN CITY —A man who fled after fatally striking a 5-year-old Michigan City girl with his SUV last summer was given a chance Wednesday to avoid prison.
Marcus Scully will split the first two years of his three-year sentence between work release and probation.
His final year to be spent in prison could be forgiven as long as he pays back the girl’s family the more than $14,000 in funeral and other expenses and lives up to a series of other court-imposed conditions like 300 hours of community service.
Scully, 35, was sentenced after pleading guilty to level 5 felony leaving the scene of an accident causing death.
He could have received up to six years in prison.
LaPorte Superior Court 1 Judge Michael Bergerson emphasized the death was ruled an accident and, had Scully stopped, the outcome would not have changed because the girl died on impact.
He also said there was no evidence of reckless driving, impairment or use of a cellphone.
Delaney Klewer was returning to Water Tower Park in the 300 block of Broadway Street in Michigan City last June to retrieve her flip flops.
According to police, the investigation shows the girl darted out in front of Scully, who initially stopped, but after seeing her lying in the middle of the street, he fled. He turned himself in two days later.
During sentencing arguments June 22, LaPorte County Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Buitendorp asked for a four-year prison sentence.
She said Scully has a criminal record and long history of marijuana use.
''We don't know for sure if he was under the influence. He admits to smoking marijuana the night before,'' she said.
Scully testified he was just an occasional user now and didn't have any marijuana prior to the accident.
Scully said he did take a prescribed hydrocodone pill four hours prior to hitting the girl, but said he was not under the influence of the medication.
Scully told the girl’s family several times how sorry he was for what happened.
"If there was anything I could do to reverse this situation, I would do it. I wish I would have stopped that day. I don’t know why I didn’t,’’ he said.
Scully, in a video recording played in the courtroom, told police he ran some errands after finishing his job as a welder then, while heading to a cousin’s house, was driving past the park when he hit the girl.
"I freaked out. I panicked. It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life,’’ he said.
Scully said he drove straight to his apartment in Trail Creek but couldn’t sleep.
He said he heard the next day in a TV broadcast the girl had died.
The girl’s parents, Gail Smith and Matthew Klewer, asked Scully be held fully accountable.
Smith said Delaney, with her blue eyes and sparkling personality ''captivated everyone'' and was excited about an upcoming Girl Scout camp.
''Living without her is unbearable,'' she said.
Bergerson told Scully fleeing showed a lack of character.
The judge ordered 100 hours of his community service be spent working at Greenwood or Swan Lake Memorial Gardens cemeteries and the balance helping children and the physically challenged to help with character building.
‘’I think you got it in you,’’ Bergerson said.