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Man who caused triple-fatal DUI crash draws long prison term

A man who killed three people in a devastating DUI crash an hour after police let him drive away in rural Nye County was sentenced Tuesday to 24 to 60 years in prison.

Tyler Kennedy received eight to 20 years for each of three counts of DUI causing death with the sentences to run consecutively. He was given 470 days credit for time served while waiting to resolve the case.

Kennedy, 34, pleaded guilty in March after his truck careened into an SUV driven by Idaho resident Michael Durmeier on U.S. Highway 95 near Beatty. Michael, his fianceé Lauren Starcevich and Michael’s 12-year-old daughter, Georgia, died in the March 27, 2021 crash.

Two other children in the SUV were injured but survived. The family was on a spring break road trip.

Georgia’s mother, Chelsea Roberts, whose son, Jackson, was injured in the crash, had urged Nye County District Court Judge Robert Lane to sentence Kennedy to the maximum 60-year term.

A Review-Journal investigation showed four sheriff’s deputies did not follow DUI policy when questioning Kennedy at the Area 51 Alien Center store about a gun complaint. He was not given the required sobriety tests and a former prosecutor and police experts were highly critical of how officers handled the situation, which put a spotlight on police discretion and when an arrest should be required.

Kennedy, who admitted to years of addiction to opioids in court records and police bodycam video, was released an hour before he caused the fatal collision.

The Nye County Sheriff’s Office maintained officers did not think Kennedy was too impaired to drive, but bodycam video obtained as part of the investigation contradicted the agency’s statement.

Kennedy also admitted to officers at the scene that he had to regularly use drugs or he would go through withdrawal, according to bodycam audio the sheriff’s office initially withheld, but released after repeated requests by the Review-Journal.

An internal sheriff’s office review determined Nelson, Schrimpf, Fischer and Detective Brooke Gentry only violated the agency’s evidence handling policy, the Review-Journal learned. Each deputy received a written reprimand, records show. Some of the victims’ family said the minor punishment for the officers added “insult to injury.”

Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly repeatedly refused to answer questions about the agency’s internal review and whether officers had been disciplined. The county had also blocked the family’s requests for information about the incident.

Kennedy, in court records, told officers that he had been addicted to drugs for more than a decade and needed to smoke fentanyl every 20 minutes to stave off withdrawal. His LinkedIn page showed a spotty employment history.

The Tolleson, Arizona resident told police he was driving from the Phoenix area to Oregon to check himself into drug rehab. Since the crash, Kennedy had been charged with escape from a treatment facility and sexual misconduct with other prisoners. Those charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Arthur Kane at akane@reviewjournal.com and follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter. Kane is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.

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