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Penson pleads guilty in crash that killed two Briarcrest girls

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A Mississippi man is set to spend 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to a drunken-driving crash that killed two Briarcrest students last May.

Circuit Judge Kelly Luther on Monday sentenced Melandus Penson, 33, of Belden to 120 years but suspended half of the sentence.

Penson pleaded guilty to two counts of DUI death in the May 31, 2015, crash that killed two 17-year-old girls, Maddie Kruse and Rachel Lynch. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of DUI negligent injury and a charge of aggravated assault.

The Briarcrest Christian School students were going on vacation with two other friends, Caroline Kamm and Kara Holden, and were being driven by Kamm’s grandmother, Roxanne Anderson. The crash happened on U.S. Highway 78 in Marshall County, Miss.

 

Maddie Kruse

Maddie Kruse

Rachel Lynch

Rachel Lynch

 

Records showed that starting in 2008, Penson had been charged with DUI six times before the crash that killed Kruse and Lynch. However, the charges were not all reported to a national crime database. Five times, he pleaded guilty to first-offense DUI.

Kamm and Holden took the witness stand Monday to request a maximum sentence for Penson.

“(They) were some of the best friends I could ever ask for,” Kamm said. “They deserved many, many more years than what they got.”
Holden said: “Seven times now, he’s done this. I don’t want another family to be hurt.”

Rachel’s mother, Jennifer Lynch, also requested the maximum sentence. She read several statements from herself and other family members.

“I’ll never see her go to college, get married. My husband will never walk her down the aisle,” Jennifer Lynch said. “No more light sentences for drunk driving and killing people.”

Maddie Kruse’s father, Tedd Kruse, told the court that the first moments after learning of his daughter’s death were terrible for the family.

“We had our precious Maddie senselessly taken away from us and we had no clue what to do,” Tedd Kruse said. “You can’t breathe. It’s hard to talk. The pain in your heart is so strong you feel like you’re going to die, and dying at this point seemed like a pretty good option — at least then we’d be with Maddie.”

Penson stood to say a few words.

“I just want to let y’all know, I was not under the influence of alcohol. I had mercy. I stayed on the scene for more than an hour,” Penson said. “I’d like to say that I’m sorry. I have a family, too. Just as well as God forgives, I ask that y’all forgive me.”

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