CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — A Franklin County (Pa.) Court of Common Pleas judge Wednesday sentenced Gerald Buterbaugh to at least 14 years in state prison for hitting and fatally injuring a man with a pickup truck on May 31, 2010.
Discarded tissues piled up on the defense table as Buterbaugh, 42, cried throughout the sentencing hearing. He was driving a 1986 Ford that struck 32-year-old Dale Steven Henry outside Hillside Tavern in Metal Township, Pa.
Henry, of Burnt Cabins, Pa., was flown to Altoona (Pa.) Regional Trauma Center, where he was pronounced brain-dead later that day.
On April 1, a jury found Buterbaugh of Hustontown, Pa., guilty of third-degree murder. Trial testimony established a timeline in which one of Buterbaugh's companions was involved in a bar fight that spilled into the parking lot, where Buterbaugh hit Henry while leaving.
Chris Sheffield, Buterbaugh's attorney, told Judge Richard Walsh during sentencing his client takes responsibility for what happened, but does not agree with the verdict and might appeal.
Walsh heard comments from both Buterbaugh's and Henry's families and friends. He received a dozen letters from Henry's loved ones and 93 correspondences from Buterbaugh's supporters, including emails and a greeting card.
"This is a tragedy no matter how you look at it," Walsh said prior to announcing his decision.
The judge sentenced Buterbaugh to 15 to 40 years in prison, with a one-year credit for time already served.
In asking for the maximum allowable penalty, Franklin County Assistant District Attorney John Lisko referenced callous comments allegedly made by Buterbaugh after the collision.
"This is not a kind, gentle person," Lisko said.
"I'll never see my son again, and his children will never see him. When we do see him, it's a headstone," said Denise Rodriguez, Henry's mother.
Sheffield asked the judge to consider Buterbaugh's entire life, which he painted as a peaceful and family-oriented one without previous violent acts.
"The circumstances of the evening were not created by Mr. Buterbaugh," Sheffield said.
Buterbaugh briefly addressed the court during the hearing.
"There's no way to say sorry. ... I know (Henry's family members) don't want to hear that, but they are in my heart and prayers every day," he said.