A Minnesota man convicted of killing a young Minneapolis couple while driving drunk at over 100 mph was sentenced to eight years in prison Tuesday.
Philip Bertelsen, 56, of Golden Valley, was convicted in August of criminal vehicular homicide in the deaths of 21-year-old Brandy Banks-Sutta and 20-year-old Melvin Jones on Nov. 3, 2013, WCCO reported.
Investigators say Bertelsen was traveling 95 mph when he rear-ended Banks-Sutta and Jones' vehicle, which was stopped at a red light at Olson Memorial Highway and Morgan Avenue North in Minneapolis. Their car was then pushed into the vehicle in front of them and they were killed on impact.
Bertelsen reached speeds of 107 mph in the seconds before the crash, charges said. He had a blood-alcohol level of .18 – more than twice the legal limit.
“He was sentenced to 96 months for the horrific crash he caused, taking the life of two innocent people,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said, according to a news release. “There is no excuse."
The victims' families spoke for 90 minutes at the hearing, describing how their lives have changed since the deaths of their loved ones, KARE 11 reports.
Brittany Bank-Sutta told the court her sister Brandy was her best friend.
“Brandy found the best in everyone. She had the biggest heart," said Brittany Bank-Sutta, according to the news release.
Nkenge Flagg, Jones' mother, said she cries almost every day over the loss of her first-born son.
“Melvin has always been a pleasure to be around,” said Flagg, according to the county attorney's office. “He is one of the most compassionate and loving individuals I have ever known. He always made me proud.”
Flagg said both families have "been handed a life sentence of grief."
When it was his turn to speak, Bertelsen said he was sorry. He acknowledged he was drunk at the time of the accident, saying he had been sober for 30 years before he started drinking excessively again.
Bertelsen was also sentenced to three years in prison, to be served concurrently, for injuries suffered by four people in the cars ahead of the one driven by Jones, according to the county attorney.