LANCASTER, Pa. — A strict sentence was handed down to a man responsible for killing a teen in a drunk driving accident. Another family grieves the loss of a loved one to a drunk driver. “We lost an irreplaceable member of our family due to a tragic crime that could have been avoided,” said Samantha Demko, sister of Meredith Demko who was killed last summer.
Chris Demko, Meredith Demko’s father, is still angry about his daughter death. “This tragedy was avoidable. The DUI issue in the state is unacceptable. This is a case that should have never happened,” Chris said. Meredith Demko was just 18 when she was killed in July in a fatal crash in East Lampeter Township.
Witnesses said Thomas Gallagher, Jr. was behind the wheel of his vehicle when it swerved directly into Demko’s path. On Wednesday, Gallagher was sentenced to 20 to 50 years in jail. “The biggest sentence we had in institutional memory for a case like this here,” Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said. But is the sentence a game changer when it comes to prosecuting fatal DUI accident? T.C. Tanski, Appellate and Post-Conviction Attorney with The McShane Firm says no. “Pennsylvania by and large adopts a, what I like to call, an individualized sentencing calculus.
What that means is under Pennsylvania law the goal of our sentencing code is to apply to a particular defendant,” Tanski said. In other words, there’s no one size fits all punishment for a DUI related death. Tanski explains there are several factors that can determine a sentence. “The rehabilitation of that particular defendant. The safety of the community at large as well as hearing from the victims and from the defendants themselves if they want to afford allocution,” Tanksi said.
It means the defendant would take responsibility for their actions. Gallagher’s attorney explains his client was suffering from a terrible addiction that was out of control when the accident occurred. Stedman says the incident should have never happened. “So easily preventable,” Stedman said. “So many choices led to this terrible outcome.” Gallagher will spend a minimum of 20 years behind bars for the fatal accident.