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Jasper County Tribune

Altoona man gets 25-years for crash that killed Colfax man

Michael Roney, 26, of Altoona, received a 25-year prison sentence Tuesday morning after being found guilty in a drunk driving case that killed Colfax resident Jeremy O’Connor.
Michael Roney, 26, of Altoona, received a 25-year prison sentence Tuesday morning after being found guilty in a drunk driving case that killed Colfax resident Jeremy O’Connor.

Tears were shed and an emotional speech was given upon the sentencing of an Altoona man April 2 for a drunk driving case that killed a Colfax man.

Michael Roney, 26, was sentenced by District Court Judge Richard Clogg to 25 years in prison and $150,000 in restitution. Roney received his sentencing after being found guilty March 19 of the September 2017 vehicular homicide of 27-year-old Colfax resident Jeremy O’Connor.

Before the sentencing, a friend of O’Connor, Adam Stone, had a final speech for Roney on behalf of the 15 people in the courthouse. In the speech, Stone said through Roney’s actions, they believe he did intentionally kill O’Connor, expressing his heart goes out to Roney’s family for dealing with the situation.

“While we believe Kelly Bennett did a fantastic job of proving the case against Michael, we believe (O’Conner’s) death was intentional. While we realize that Michael did not pick Jeremy as a victim, we believe the deliberate decision he made that night proves his intent,” Stone said. “Michael stated that his intent was to come to our home and consume alcohol with Jeremy. He chose to operate his vehicle under the influence of alcohol. He knew that it was possible to hurt or kill himself and/or others by doing so.

“While we realize (Roney’s) family is also about to suffer a loss, we are not sorry for wanting to have Michael held accountable for his actions,” Stone added.

The Newton Daily News previously reported, after wrapping up closing arguments March 19, the jury went into deliberation from 2:12 to 3:40 p.m. Roney was subsequently detained inside Jasper County Courthouse by a sheriff deputy at about 3:45 p.m. with 15 other onlookers.

“Nobody is suggesting that the defendant intentionally caused the death of Jeremy O’Connor. In fact, if he had intentionally caused the death of Jeremy O’Connor, we would be talking about a much different trial,” Bennett said during his closing argument. “He intentionally went down to the bar. The defendant intentionally drank a shot. The defendant intentionally consumed beer ... The defendant, instead of going home, intentionally got behind the wheel of a vehicle.”

Proceedings from March 18 included Bennett playing surveillance video of Roney’s time at the Thirsty Turtle bar in Colfax with O’Connor the night of his death. The video played until Roney and O’Connor were seen exiting the bar at about 1:47 a.m., while it was pointed out every time Roney consumed alcohol.

Although they were seen drinking at the bar, documentation from the Iowa Alcohol and Beverage Division does show a complaint against Thirsty Turtle for allegedly over-serving Roney was dismissed.

After testifying about Roney and O’Connor’s time at the bar, the topic of discussion shifted to the vehicle marks left in the ditch, specifically, off to the side of West 108th Street North. Using a toy car, a diagram of the road, pictures of tire tracks and a stop sign, an Iowa State Patrol trooper testified regarding what they found in the investigation, as well as with the damage to Roney’s vehicle.

O’Connor was killed after he was ejected from the vehicle in a rollover accident at the intersection of Highway 117 and West 108th Street North near Indian Creek south of Mingo.

The Iowa State Patrol reported O’Connor was pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators said the vehicle was traveling northbound on Highway 117 around 2:52 a.m. when it went off the pavement and struck the gravel road at West 108th Street North, causing it to overturn multiple times.

The vehicle came to rest on the driver’s side in a nearby cornfield.

Contact Orrin Shawl at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 oshawl@newtondailynews.com

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