Kevin Meister will serve 15 years in a Wisconsin prison for ingesting heroin and killing a 33-year-old father riding his bike on Lincoln Road in the Town of Oregon, before going to his landscaping job on Aug. 5, 2016.
The sentence imposed Friday by Dane County Circuit Judge William Hanrahan also includes five years of extended supervision. The combined 20 years of prison and parole represents half the 40-year maximum Meister faced after pleading guilty to homicide by driving under the influence of a controlled substance.
Five other charges against Meister, including second-degree reckless homicide and hit-and-run involving death, were dismissed during the defendant’s plea hearing.
The laborer from the Town of Brooklyn killed Shelton Berel, 33, by swerving across the center line of westbound Lincoln Road and crashing head-on into him. Berel was riding eastbound, training for a triathlon.
Meister drove away and was found by police at the landscaping company where he worked in Verona. He told authorities he thought he had hit a deer.
Police officers found syringes and other drug paraphernalia in Meister’s truck, and he admitted that he routinely took heroin before driving to work. He also violated the no-drugs terms of his bail, while his prosecution worked through the courts.
Meister’s attorney sought probation during the sentencing hearing, according to an account in the Wisconsin State Journal. The prosecutor requested a 16-year sentence.
Berel was one of 11 people killed while biking in Wisconsin in 2016. A review of the crash reports shows five of the deaths were caused by inattention or criminal actions on the part of the motorists.
In Berel’s case, the decision to drive while impaired took away a husband and a father and created severe emotional trauma for his family and all those who enjoy their right to ride bikes on Wisconsin roads. It’s a reminder that failure to fulfill a duty to drive safely can kill someone.
While this was a case of clear homicide, in too many cases a driver gets off with a slap on the wrist for killing or severely injuring a cyclist due to inattentive driving.
The Bike Fed is working to strengthen those laws through a Vulnerable Users Bill. You can help by joining us on Lobby Day on April 13th in Madison.
Sign up to lobby here →