Avery Hawkinson is proud to have his last name displayed on his U.S. Navy uniform.
The name makes everyone think of his father, Marc Hawkinson, 40, of Janesville—the “center point” of the family, which was well represented in a Walworth County courtroom’s gallery Monday.
“He symbolizes all of us,” Avery said of his father. “The personality, the love, the thoughts, the good times, the cooking, the family gatherings—it was him.
“Without him, there’d be no—there’d be no Hawkinson, no family.”
Avery wore his working uniform to the sentencing hearing for Casandra A. Melvin, the woman who crashed into his father’s van on March 28, 2018, killing him.
“The fact that I get to wear a United States military uniform with my last name on it—with my dad’s last name on it—makes me prouder than anybody in this world,” he said.
“And then this person took it from me. She took him from me. This guy, the best person I ever knew.”
Judge Kristine Drettwan sentenced Melvin to 18 months in prison and 3.5 years of extended supervision for failing to fully stop at a stop sign before she turned onto Highway 11/14 near the Rock and Walworth County border.
She must complete 40 hours of community service for each year of supervision. She must also attend a traffic safety class in person and pay $2,447.32 in restitution, the judge decided.
Melvin, 27, formerly of Milton but more recently of 6429 Pennycook Road, Edgerton, did not have a criminal history—although records show a speeding incident not long before the crash—and prison was not the best choice for her rehabilitative needs, the judge said.
But Drettwan said probation in the “heart-wrenching” case was not adequate punishment.
Melvin’s lawyer, Michael Murphy, said the crash was caused by a split-second poor decision.
Who among us, the lawyer asked, hasn’t steered a car with their leg—even briefly? Looked in the mirror too long? Ate lunch while driving?
“This was an unforeseeable conclusion,” Murphy said. “She never thought this could happen from her single poor decision.”
But Drettwan said going 27 mph through a stop sign was properly charged as homicide by negligent use of a vehicle.
What’s worse, District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld said, is Melvin could have hurt her two nephews, then ages 5 and 6, or her then-unborn child.
Why Melvin was at that location speaks to her character, Murphy said. She was driving to pick up the children’s mother at a homeless shelter close to the crash scene.
Multiple family members mentioned Melvin’s caring for her sister’s kids as a sign of her selfless spirit.
Most of those who spoke on behalf of Melvin, who worked at Schnucks in Janesville, also turned to the Hawkinson family to apologize.
Melvin, in her brief and tearful statement, did the same.
But Marc, whose mom said he was a single father, won’t be around to see his daughter, Melanie, graduate from high school.
Avery said seeing his father at his basic training graduation was “probably the most joyful moment of my life.”
But his dad’s death pushed Avery’s mental health to the brink, and he went to the emergency room twice during the “hardest year of my life.”
Mary Kay Clark, Marc’s mom, said her son donated his organs—a giver even in death.
“His eyes are helping people to see,” she said. “His skin tissue helped 19 burn victims. All of his other vital organs were damaged beyond comprehension …”
After Melvin learned she was going to prison, the two families filed out of the courtroom from opposite sides.
After the room was nearly empty, security guards let Melvin return and say goodbye to her young child.
“I’m glad you’re too young to know what’s going on, baby,” she said.
It was a moment most defendants aren’t allowed.
“OK,” one of the guards said after Melvin hugged her baby and her boyfriend. “Sorry, but we gotta go.”
“Thank you,” Melvin said.