A Mount Prospect man who served 12 years in prison for killing four people in a 1999 drunken driving crash was sentenced Friday to six years behind bars for driving drunk last year on the same road.
Walter J. Depner, 62, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the Aug. 21, 1999, crash on Route 120 near Lakemoor in McHenry County that killed Eva Burleson of Crystal Lake and her three children.
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Her husband, Tom Burleson, was seriously injured but survived.
Depner was paroled in June 2011 but charged with aggravated DUI less than two years later.
He was arrested in February 2013 after driving erratically, again on Route 120, and hitting a snowbank. He walked into a nearby home, lay on a couch and mumbled how he caused the fatal crash, prosecutors said.
Depner's attorney, Mark Faccinni, said last year's crash was Depner's attempt to commit suicide because of years of untreated depression from the 1999 crash, losing his home and his wife through divorce, post-traumatic stress disorder and a lack of psychiatric care.
Tom Burleson, who attended the hearing but did not testify, said he hopes Depner "finds peace."
"I forgave him at the trial (in 2003). He is a lost, lonely old man. I understand he bought a lot of that onto himself," Burleson said after Friday's hearing. "They said (the 2013 arrest) was a suicide attempt. To me that's a plea for help. I just hope he gets the help he needs. I'm not upset with the sentence at all. I just hope he finds peace."
McHenry County Judge Gordon Graham issued a six-year term, saying he couldn't compare the two crimes.
"This is not a case about the comparison of two losses," Graham said.
Depner faced up to 10 years on the 2013 DUI charge, which is what Assistant State's Attorney David Metnick asked for.
Metnick bristled at a letter written by Depner's girlfriend, saying he had "lost everything" since the 1999 crash.
"The people who lost everything in 1999 were the people Walter Depner killed," said Metnick, naming Eva Burleson and her children: Daniel, 14; Tiffany, 11; and Dallis, 7.
"It's almost as if we're here for a pity party for Walter Depner because he spent 12 years in prison. He deserved the maximum sentence and he earned every day he got in that sentence."
Metnick said if the 1999 crash occurred today, Depner would have faced up to 28 years in prison.
In court, Faccinni read a letter written by Depner to Graham.
Depner wrote he will "never stop thinking" about the fatal crash and after his prison release, he found it hard to find work, cared for his elderly mother and had a quadruple bypass heart surgery.
As for the February 2013 DUI arrest, Depner wrote that he knew he "did wrong" but "I did not go out get high and party and try to break the law."
Nowhere in the letter was the word "sorry" used.
Under state law, Depner can have his sentence cut in half for good behavior in prison. Depner faced up to 10 years in prison.