On Monday, a Michigan man who mowed down nine cyclists while driving drunk in 2016 — killing five of them — learned that he will be spending the next 40 to 75 years of his life in a prison cell, PEOPLE confirms.
Charles Pickett Jr., 52, was facing a possible life sentence after being convicted last month on five counts of second-degree murder and five counts of operating while under the influence causing death, all stemming from a June 7, 2016, bicycle crash in Kalamazoo County.
Pickett was under the influence of alcohol and drugs when his speeding pick-up truck plowed into the group of unsuspecting riders from behind. He was seen by numerous witnesses driving erratically in the moments leading up to the collision.
The nine victims were out for an evening ride as part of a social cycling group called the Chain Gang.
Killed in the incident were Debra Ann Bradley, 53, of Augusta; Melissa Ann Fevig Hughes, 42, of Kalamazoo; Fred Anton “Tony” Nelson, 73, of Kalamazoo; Lorenz John “Larry” Paulik, 74, of Kalamazoo and 56-year-old Suzanne Joan Sippel, of Augusta.
Four others were left severely injured but recovered; Pickett was also convicted last month of four counts of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury.
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At his sentencing, several of Pickett’s victims spoke to the judge about how their lives were changed by the crash.
Jennifer Johnson, who survived what she called “a horrific tragedy,” said she has gotten back on her bike but will only ride “with a group.”
“I find myself holding my breath as people pass,” she said.
She said she lost one of her best friends, Melissa Fevig Hughes, in the crash.
“Where is your remorse? Where is your suffering?” she asked Pickett. “I hope you serve the rest of your days behind bars so that no one else will experience the pain and suffering due to your selfish actions.”
Pickett also addressed the court, apologizing for his actions and at one point breaking down in tears.
“I’m very sorry,” he said. “I wish this tragedy had never happened. There’s nothing I can ever do to take it back. I would give my life for the people that I’ve murdered or killed and maimed. I just want to say I’m sorry.”
But Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Judge Paul Bridenstine said he wasn’t convinced Pickett was remorseful for his crimes.
“I find that to be woefully inadequate,” Bridenstine told him, adding, “You selfishly and unnecessarily murdered five people and altered the lives of four others.”
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Pickett, who claims to have no recollection of the crash, was sentenced to 35 to 55 years for each of the five murder counts, which will be served concurrently.
He also received eight to 15 years for each count of operating while under the influence causing death and three to five years on each of the four counts of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury — all to be served concurrent with the other terms.
Judge Bridenstine ordered each count of operating while under the influence causing death to be served consecutively with one another, but concurrent to the other sentences.
Pickett’s attorney could not be reached for comment on Monday.