CLAYTON • A Chesterfield man who was drunk last year when he crashed his car head-on with another vehicle — killing a Chesterfield teacher and injuring her son — was sentenced today to a year in jail.
St. Louis County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Prebil also sentenced Patrick J. McCormick to five years of probation, and ordered him to wear an alcohol-monitoring device for a year after his release.
McCormick pleaded guilty in June in St. Louis County Circuit Court to first-degree involuntary manslaughter and second-degree assault in connection with a 2011 head-on crash that caused the death of a Whitfield School teacher.
McCormick, 54, of the 16800 block of Lansbrooke Court, was drunk Aug. 26 when he drove his 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe across the center line of Wildhorse Creek Road near Riverdale Drive and slammed into a 1992 Infiniti G20, police said.
The driver of the Infiniti, Janet Esrock, 50, of Chesterfield and a math teacher at the Whitfield School in Creve Coeur, died Sept. 11 from her injuries. Her then-16-year-old son, Jonathan, was seriously injured in the crash but survived.
Police say McCormick failed a sobriety test and that results on McCormick's blood show he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.14 percent at 12:30 a.m., about two hours after crash, police said. The legal limit to drive a vehicle in Missouri is 0.08 percent.
With good behavior, McCormick is eligible to be released from jail in 9½ months, authorities said. Prosecutors had sought the maximum sentence of seven years in prison on each charge; St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch was displeased with the sentence.
The courtroom was filled Friday as the sentence was announced, with about 50 people from both families in attendance.
Esrock's husband, Chuck Esrock, said in court today that he believes McCormick's crashing and killing his wife was not an accident but a deliberate act.
"It was Russian roulette played with a 5,000-pound gun aimed at my wife," Esrock said.
He spoke of how his wife's death has deeply affected him, his family and the Whitfield community.
"This can never be fixed and can never be made right," he said. "I can never forgive and never forget. More than anything, I miss my wife."
McCormick apologized to the Esrock family. He said her death has affected him deeply, in part, because his and the Esrock families have many friends in common and live near each other in Chesterfield. He said he was ready to accept whatever sentence the judge felt was appropriate.
"I can only say that I have a heartfelt and deep emotional feeling of guilt," McCormick said in court today with his shoulders hunched and hands clasped in front of him. "I've had, most nights, dreams of Janet Esrock and the family. I'd like to say that I could imagine what you're going through, but I can't and I'm not going to pretend to."
Prebil said he personally read the 40 to 50 letters sent to him from friends and relatives of both families since McCormick's guilty plea in late June.
He read short excerpts from two letters that urged fairness in sentencing and hope that something positive could be derived from Esrock's death. Prebil said determining an appropriate sentence was "a difficult decision," saying that he considered the damage the crash caused both families.
Chuck Esrock declined comment after the sentencing but a friend of the Esrocks, Sue Ferguson of Chesterfield, said outside the courtroom the family was angered and disappointed that Prebil didn't give a harsher sentence.
"They're in shock," she said. "This is crazy. It wasn't an accident. An accident is killing someone and you're not drinking. Give me a break."
Julie Abeln, a neighbor of the Esrocks and friend of 16 years, told reporters she thinks Prebil's sentence "sends the wrong message to the entire community."
"I just hope that if we're going to have a tragedy, that something good can come out of it," she said. "That everyone, when they get in that car, just think about it and realize that you have lives in your hands, whether it be your own, passengers in your car or others on the road. That's all I ask."
McCormick worked for an outside company as director of facilities at St. Louis University Hospital at the time of the crash. He is no longer employed there.