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"Ashamed" DUI killer Brian Kroen pleads guilty and gets 15 years

NEW PORT RICHEY — Brian Kroen used the words "catastrophic" and "horrendous."

He gasped for breath through his sobs.

But unlike many defendants standing before a judge on their reckoning day, Kroen wasn't asking for anything. No mercy. No second chance.

"I'm glad this day has come," Kroen, 42, said Friday.

The Hudson man pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter and three counts of DUI with serious bodily injury stemming from a January 2008 crash. Facing a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted as charged, he accepted a state offer of 15 years.

Authorities said Kroen was driving west on State Road 52 in Hudson about 8 p.m. on Jan. 12, 2008. They said he was drunk, with a blood-alcohol level three times greater than the level at which Florida law presumes impairment.

When he made a left turn onto Nature Trail, he pulled into the path of two eastbound motorcycles.

Steven and Linette Walden, a married couple from Dade City, crashed into Kroen's Toyota pickup, according to the Florida Highway Patrol's investigation. Their Harley-Davidson motorcycle spun out and slid on its left side. Linette Walden was thrown off and died later at a hospital. She was 52.

A second Harley-Davidson driven by Dennis R. Adair struck Kroen next, the patrol said. Melanie McCoy, the passenger on that bike, was thrown onto the roof of Kroen's pickup and landed in the truck bed.

Of the four victims, only Linette Walden's widower spoke at the sentencing.

Steven Walden, 53, held up a photograph of his late wife as he struggled to find the words for his grief.

"I have felt the results of this every single day," he said.

Then Kroen spoke.

"I apologize to you, God and my family," he told Walden.

He said he flies the flag at his home at half-staff on behalf of the woman he killed.

Kroen's family members sat behind him, but he didn't want anyone to speak on his behalf.

"I can't even look at my family or Mr. Walden because I'm ashamed," he said.

Then he was handcuffed, fingerprinted and led away. A bailiff took his belt and necktie to give to his wife.

Outside the courtroom, everyone cried more. Kroen's relatives hugged Steven Walden.

He showed them the picture of his wife.

"Beautiful smile," someone said.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

"Ashamed" DUI killer Brian Kroen pleads guilty and gets 15 years 04/24/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 24, 2009 7:17pm]
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