Alcohol Awareness Class Could Have Prevented Tragedy

by: Mike Miller

Any time a person loses their life at a fairly young age it is tragic. There is so much positive energy that we lose when a young life is lost – so much potential and hope. Unfortunately this happens every day. It is especially hard to stomach when it happens at the wheel of a drunken driver.

Kathleen E. Altepeter died eight days shy of her 40th birthday -- a birthday that the Lafayette, Indiana woman declared would be a turning point and time to better her life, according to her parents.

Altepeter spent the hours before her death on April 8, 2011, drinking at a Lafayette bar with an ex-boyfriend, Bradley J. Siefert. She was in the front passenger seat of Siefert's SUV when he crashed into a utility pole.

Emergency responders had to cut off the passenger-side door to remove Altepeter, who later died from her injuries.

Real Winner Here

Siefert, who initially ran to his mother's home three-quarters of a mile away and denied being the driver or knowing Altepeter, pleaded guilty to the crime in August.

He was sentenced for 2 to 20 years in prison and four year’s probation for operating a vehicle with at least 0.15 grams of alcohol causing death, a Class B felony, and leaving the scene of an accident causing death, a Class C felony. He could have gotten as few as eight years or as many as 28 under Indiana's sentencing laws.

A blood test showed that Siefert had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.22 percent -- nearly triple Indiana's legal limit of 0.08 percent -- afterward, along with traces of opiates and cannabinoids.

Saying the Right Things

He said, "If I could trade places with Kathy, I sure would," Siefert, 33, testified Friday. "But what I can do is ... Kathy can continue to live through me, by me speaking with other people, starting with children.

"It's one way to live a better life, inner peace ... which I obviously did not know. You don't really know what alcohol and drugs can do to you until it's too late."

Almost Made All the Right Choices

According to Siefert, he and Altepeter dated for about three years and had broken up three weeks before her death. The prior evening, Altepeter had met Siefert at Ace's Pub.

Siefert admitted that he been consuming alcoholic beverages since 2 p.m. April 7. Though he had used two to three taxis to get to other bars, Siefert and Altepeter then took a taxi to his sister's house to pick up his vehicle.

Once again, a tragedy that could have been avoided.