Driver sentenced in Bruning’s death

Driver sentenced in Brunings death

by Erin Haller, News Editor

More than eight months after senior Jason Bruning’s life was taken by a drunk driver, the man responsible for his death has been sent to jail.

Jacob Stielow, 22, of Ankeny pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter at the Polk County Courthouse on April 3. He was given the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison with chance of parole after serving half of that time.

Stielow also owes Bruning’s family a required $150,000 restitution, payment to a victim or victim’s family by the convicted offender.

“The wrong person died that night,” said Stielow as he addressed Bruning’s family and friends, wiping away tears. “I wish I could trade places and give Jason the life he was cheated out of. I’m sorry. I hope you can forgive me.”

Stielow retracted his earlier plea of not guilty and pled guilty in last week’s hearing, giving up his right to a trial which would have begun April 8.

Stielow’s attorney, Maggi Moss, said she had consulted her client and his family on his right to a trial versus his acceptance of responsibility. She said Stielow chose not to put Bruning’s family through the rigors of further courtroom proceedings.

Judge Joel Novak sentenced Stielow to the maximum of 25 years in prison, the maximum sentence for such a crime. Once released, Novak said Stielow would undoubtedly lose driving privileges.

According to his statements in last week’s hearing, Stielow got behind the wheel of a car on July 29, 2001, after consuming alcohol and ingesting methamphetamines.

Stielow ran into the car driven by Bruning at the intersection of Iowa Highway 60 and U.S. Highway 69. Bruning died shortly after the accident from his injuries.

Stielow’s blood alcohol level at the time of the accident was .175, above the state limit of .1.

“I drove a vehicle while intoxicated and caused an accident,” said Stielow when asked by Novak to explain what he did the night of July 29. “I caused an accident and a life was lost. I deserve to be punished.”

Colleen McClue, Bruning’s mother, gave a victim impact statement before the court.

“He was everything to me,” McClue said of her son. “Every day Jason woke up to take on the challenges of a new day. Jason received a death sentence for Jacob Stielow’s night of excessive drinking and drug use.”

Novak had strong words in addressing the court at the end of the hearing.

“This case is one of my worst nightmares,” he said. “Two families have been destroyed.”

He said he wished Stielow’s case was the only one like it he ever had seen or ever would see. But he hoped that, for young people sitting in the courtroom, the case would deter them from drinking and driving.

“There is so much hurt, so much sorrow and so much regret in this courtroom and you caused it,” said Novak, addressing Stielow. “Your conduct has ruined your life. I don’t know how you’ll ever rebound from this.”