Man paralyzed in drunken driving accident sentenced to 20 weekends in jail

Posted: Dec. 20, 2012 6:41 pm Updated: Jan. 3, 2013 7:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

A Fowler teenager will spend 20 weekends in the Adams County Jail after pleading guilty to aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol in connection with a December 2011 crash near Paloma that left him and a Missouri woman critically injured.

Luke A. Genenbacher, 18, was sentenced Thursday afternoon by Judge William Mays. Genenbacher pleaded guilty in October in exchange for a felony probation sentence after reaching an agreement with the Adams County state's attorney's office.

He also will serve 30 months probation and pay a $500 fine. Genenbacher will serve his first weekend on Jan. 5-6. Mays will review his ruling on April 2.

The Illinois State Police reported Genenbacher drove a Chevrolet pickup truck through a stop sign on County Road 1750 East on Dec. 16, 2011, Genenbacher's truck struck the passenger side of a GMC Yukon. The Yukon's passengers, Brian and Lisa Shimp, of Frankford, Mo., were both injured in the collision. The crash paralyzed Genenbacher from the waist down.

Mays explained this case was difficult because many would consider life in a wheelchair as a punishment enough. However, he said not including jail time would diminish the severity of the crime and injuries the Shimps suffered.

"It was a series of decisions," Mays said. "Not a series of accidents … I need to make the victims as whole as I possibly can."

Mays defined a weekend as 10 a.m. on Saturday to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The Shimps remained silent during the sentencing, but allowed Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Cifaldi to refer to their victim impact statements.

Brian Shimp's statement discussed the traumatic memories he has from the collision. He said his wife wasn't moving or speaking, and that he was holding her head and calling for help while seeing her foot dangle from a fractured ankle.

"He thought his wife was going to die. He was holding her head, saying his goodbyes," Cifaldi said

Lisa Shimp still struggles physically a year after the accident. She suffered fractured ribs, a broken back and a fractured ankle, and still has difficulty walking. An elementary art teacher, she said her ability to help students has been limited since she returned to work because of stiffness.

Both said their personal lives have suffered.

"This is the poster case for tragedy … It's why we warn our kids not to drink and drive," Cifaldi said. "If you put him in jail for some period of time that sends a huge message."

Genenbacher's attorney Dennis Woodworth argued that jail time would not serve its intended purpose. He said the injuries Genenbacher suffered have caused reflection on a series of poor decisions that night.

Genenbacher had consumed alcohol at a party in Coatsburg before the accident. According to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab, Genenbacher had a blood-alcohol content of 0.145, well above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

"He has the right attitude," Woodworth said. "He realizes he made a mistake."

During his brief statement, Genenbacher asked to apologize to the Shimps.

"I'm sorry for what I've done to your guys' whole family … I'd take it all back in a heartbeat," he said.