OCONTO COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) – An Oconto County man has been sentenced to three years in prison for a fatal hit-and-run crash.
Joe Anderson, 36, appeared in court Tuesday morning for a sentencing hearing on a charge of Homicide by Negligent Operation of a Vehicle. In addition to the prison sentence, he was ordered to serve five years on extended supervision and complete 250 hours of community service.
In Dec. 2015, Anderson’s vehicle struck Birr as the 51-year-old man was walking along County Highway S near Sobieski.
Anderson left the scene. Birr’s body was found 11 hours later in the ditch. Anderson was arrested after an anonymous tipster contacted authorities to report Anderson was looking for parts to repair his vehicle.
“I don’t want sympathy I don’t want, it’s too late at this point,” said Birr’s daughter, Holly Birr-Kleczka. “Watching you with your family after every hearing, it was hard, very hard, we don’t get that ever with our dad again.”
Anderson was apologetic. “The responsible thing would’ve been to stop when I did not see what I hit. I know this now. But I did not see Mr. Birr,” he said.
Anderson was initially charged with Hit-and-Run Involving Death, but agreed to a plea deal on the lesser charge.
The prosecution had requested two-and-a-half years in prison. The defense had asked for one year behind bars. Ultimately, Judge Michael T. Judge gave him three years.
“Whether you were impaired that night Mr. Anderson, I do not know. I do know that you have two prior drunk driving convictions, though. I don’t know if that was a factor in why you did not stop,” said Judge, who added that it did not matter if it was dark, rainy, or Anderson didn’t see Birr walking.
“I don’t care- you had to stop! You had to accept the responsibility for the incident that you caused. And you failed to do that,” he told Anderson in the courtroom.
“You have taken something from us that can never be replaced and there’s no consequence big enough to even compare to the life of my father,” said Birr-Kleczka.