Man gets jail for reckless driving

Published 10:05 am Monday, January 11, 2016

An Elkhart’s man will be serving time in Cass County for a recent drunken — and destructive — car ride on Pokagon Highway.


David Vales

Judge Michael Dodge sentenced 54-year-old David Franklin Vales to one year in jail and two years of probation during his appearance in Cass County Court Friday morning, for a single count of operating while intoxicated and for reckless driving. Vales had pleaded guilty to both offenses Nov. 19.

According to the judge, Vales was arrested and charged following his escapade in the vicinity  of Pokagon Highway and Dailey Road on Nov. 8. Driving under the influence of alcohol and Xanax pills, the Elkhart man rear-ended a westbound vehicle driven by Niles’ Justin Vandenburg, who had his wife Ashley and two young children riding with him at the time. Vale continued to push their vehicle down the road for another halfmile to the intersection of Dailey and Dunning Street before he disengaged his vehicle, crashing into a cornfield near the intersection, Dodge said.

“You caused nearly $700 to the fencing of the property owner, Steve Waldschmidt,” Dodge said. “But even worse than that is the personal risk and terrorizing impact this must have had on the Vandenburg family.”

One of the victims of his reckless driving, Ashley Vandenburg, backed up this statement, describing to the court the fear she and her family felt as Vale violently rammed his vehicle into theirs.

“I want you to know there was a family in that car, and even though you didn’t hurt us physically, you hurt my daughter emotionally,” Vandenburg said. “We now have a hard time getting her into any car, to do anything.”

According to Dodge, Vale indicated that his actions that day were driven by his desire to commit suicide, as he had been struggling with depression.

“If that indeed was your intent, you certainly didn’t need to take these innocent folks with you,” the judge said. “That’s the really sad part about this — that you involved them in this apparent suicide attempt.”

The defendant has an extensive history with substance abuse prior to the crash in November, with his first drug offense, a charge of possession of marijuana, occurring when he was 18, said Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz. The prosecutor noted that Vale had been heavily abusing pills and alcohol due to stress in his life, he said.

“That is not the way you deal with stress,” Fitz said. “You don’t deal with stress with alcohol. You don’t deal with stress with marijuana. You deal with it through dealing with your problems in a sober fashion.”

Vale was given credit for 62 days already served. He was also ordered to pay $1,002 worth of restitution to the victims.

Also sentenced Friday:

• Betty Jo Gourley, 45, of Dowagiac, to 18 months of probation for possession of an analogue substance.

• Andrew Martin Gerndt, 32, of South Bend, to 18 months of probation for possession of an analogue substance and possession of methamphetamine.

• Reynaldo Montoya, 24, of Elkhart, to 240 days in jail for fleeing from a police officer.

• Rebecca Ann Stinnett, 29, of Niles, to 150 days in jail and two years of probation for forgery and uttering and publishing.

• Robert Carl Urick, 24, of Goshen, to one year of probation for delivery/manufacture of marijuana.