Elkhorn man gets maximum term in nine-year-old's death
Jeremy Dees, in a nearly four-hour hearing, was sentenced Thursday to the maximum prison term of seven years for the death of Carter Dorwin. Dees will be supervised for five years after he is released.
The hearing was marked by dramatic court statements from Carter's parents and detailed revelations about the gruesome crash.
Dees, 33, of Elkhorn was found guilty in February by Walworth County Judge John Race of negligently smashing his Jeep into the oncoming car in which Carter was a passenger. The crash happened Nov. 16 on County H north of Lake Geneva.
Dees was found guilty of felony homicide by negligent use of a motor vehicle and two lesser counts of causing injury by reckless driving.
Police say Dees' Jeep twice swerved into the oncoming traffic lane and smashed into a sedan driven by Carter's mother, Nicole, who had tried but failed to swerve out of the way. Nicole, 36, and Carter's 4-year-old brother, Bradley, suffered minor injuries.
Dees' sentencing was heavily steeped in religious beliefs, including the revelation that Dees' alcohol and drug abuse therapist also was a pastor for the Dorwin family.
John LaGalbo, associate pastor at Mt. Zion Christian Church in Lake Geneva, told the court that Dees had completed "Bible based" rehabilitation at a Christian clinic but relapsed into drunkenness before finally becoming sober for an extended period.
Dees had nothing to drink on the morning of the crash, but he acted erratically for days prior to the fatal collision, LaGalbo said.
Dees had found a zeal for God, sparked by the Holy Spirit, LaGalbo said. But he also struggled with thoughts of the devil contacting him, making Dees manic and disillusioned, LaGalbo said. Dees also sought spiritual guidance from LaGalbo.
Prior to the crash, Dees showed up at the treatment facility at 3 a.m. demanding a prayer session. He told staff that he hadn't slept in two days.
He also stepped on his cell phone, smashing it to pieces and saying he was ridding himself of an idol, LaGalbo said.
LaGalbo said Dees was prone to making "poor choices" such as taking a married woman as his girlfriend and having a baby girl with her.
Wearing jail clothing, his hands and feet shackled, Dees said he would exchange his life for Carter's and admitted his apology would sound shallow to the Dorwin family.
"Your hearts are understandably bitter," Dees said to the Dorwins.
He said he would pray that the Dorwins could someday forgive him.
Dees, who claims to have little or no memory of the fatal crash, said he had no intention of harming Carter. He said what happened was an accident.
Defense attorney James Duquette said no one knows why his client drove into the Dorwin vehicle.
"What we do know is he wasn't drunk. He wasn't drugged. He wasn't texting," Duquette said in arguing for a lesser prison term for Dees.
The Dorwins in lengthy and tearful statements asked Race to sentence Dees to a maximum prison term.
Nicole Dorwin was driving her two boys to school the morning of the crash. She was set that day to register Carter to the Badger Youth Wrestling Club in Lake Geneva.
Chad Dorwin, Carter's father, was driving a semitrailer truck that morning south of Chicago. He was five hours from home.
The collision was so forceful that Nicole Dorwin's car was pushed into a swamp. After kicking a car door open, her feet became entangled in wet vegetation and she could barely move.
When she got to Carter in the back seat area, which took the brunt of the collision, she saw a battered body and could not feel a pulse, she said.
"I looked around at Carter and saw an image that no mother should have to ever see," Nicole said. "The remains of Carter's head lay on the seat next to him."
Nicole Dorwin said every day she must drive by the crash site to get to work.
Chad Dorwin said he will never see his first-born son grow into a man, graduate high school, go off to college and get married.
The lingering trauma of Carter's death has prevented Chad Dorwin from returning to work, he said.
"How can any punishment make up for the loss of a 9-year-old boy?" Chad Dorwin asked.
The couple keep Carter's ashes by their bed.