Driver gets prison for double fatality

ESCANABA – Emotions were tense during Monday’s sentencing in Delta County Circuit Court as one family suffered the loss of two lives and another family faced the consequences of their deaths.

Harley Davidson Durocher, 25, of Little Lake, was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for causing last year’s deaths of Tom and Barbara Swift, each 73, of Escanaba.

The couple died of injuries suffered when their car was struck by a logging truck driven by Durocher who failed to stop at a red light in Gladstone on March 20, 2013. The crash occurred on U.S. 2 & 41/M-35 at South Hill Road.

During Durocher’s trial in April, a jury found him guilty of six charges – two counts of reckless driving causing death, two counts of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license causing death, and two counts of operating a motor vehicle with the presence of a controlled substance (THC in marijuana) causing death.

Delta County Prosecutor Steve Parks addressed the court first on Monday, saying, “Looking back at the trial, there’s one thing that sticks with me… is there was no sign of remorse.”

Parks recalled the two lives lost, the heartache caused by their deaths, and the tears, anger and frustration of the family during the trial.

These emotions were repeated Monday as the couple’s two grown children presented statements to the court.

“We can’t cry enough tears to bring them back,” said the Swifts’ son, Brian Swift, as he spoke to the court prior to sentencing. “We are robbed of them… They had so many more years to live.”

At times, Brian directed his words directly to the defendant, saying, “You have destroyed our family beyond repair.”

Brian blamed Durocher for having no remorse and said he dodged the truth when he told his girlfriend to throw her cell phone in a lake before police came to their house.

The Swifts’ daughter, Patti Swift-Dringoli, also spoke Monday.

The two siblings described their parents as loving, caring, devoted, down-to-earth, fun, and hard-working. The couple would have celebrated their 54th anniversary on Wednesday.

Patti described special occasions and holidays as “painful reminders of what we don’t have.”

“You have sentenced us to a lifetime without them,” she told Durocher after reminding him how he made the choices to drive with a suspended license, drive with THC in his system, drive with faulty equipment, and drive recklessly.

“You need to own it,” she added.

Defense attorney Jim Howarth of Detroit addressed the court and said he was “overwhelmed by the grief expressed,” describing the grief as “very legitimate and powerful” and “absolutely heartfelt.”

He also told the family that Durocher has been remorseful.

In Durocher’s statement to the court, he said he was “very, very sorry” and there was nothing he can do to change what happened.

“I’m very sorry. I’m sorry,” he said as he turned and looked at the Swift family and friends.

Judge Davis described the case as one of “profound sadness,” adding there were lives lost, lives ruined and lives altered.

“Today does not end the tragedy,” commented Davis before sentencing Durocher on his six convictions.

Davis ruled he spend a minimum of five years and six months to up to 15 years in prison on each of the two counts of reckless driving causing death.

Durocher was sentenced to a minimum of three years to up to 15 years in prison on each of the two counts of driving with the presence of a controlled substance (marijuana) causing death.

He was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison for each of the two counts of driving with a suspended license causing death.

The above six sentences are to be served concurrently.

Durocher was ordered to have no contact with the Swift family. He was ordered to pay $23,905 in restitution and $372 in fines and costs. His drivers license was revoked. He was given credit for 29 days served in the county jail.

Following sentencing, the judge allowed anyone in the audience to leave the courtroom prior to him considering motions filed by the defense.

Howarth presented a motion to appeal to have a new trial based on drug and alcohol evidence that was suppressed from the jury.

Davis said he was “quite satisfied” with the jury’s ruling and he denied the motion.

Howarth asked the judge to consider a motion to allow his client to bond out of jail pending an appeal.

Davis replied that he considered all the facts and the seriousness of the offenses and concluded the case was “very well tried and properly done.” He denied the motion.

Emotions remained tense in the courtroom as Durocher was handcuffed by a sheriff’s deputy. As he exited the courtroom, he obviously glared at Brian Swift.

Angry words were expressed from the defendant’s side of the courtroom as officers intervened and immediately escorted Durocher’s family and friends outside.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net