The man who struck and killed a state legislator’s wife with an SUV last year in a Wichita grocery store parking lot has been ordered to serve five years and nine months in prison.
Christopher J. Schrader’s sentence came Monday morning in Sedgwick County District Court, nearly a year after he pulled out of a parking stall and ran over 60-year-old Annette Hedke – wife of Rep. Dennis Hedke, R-Wichita – after she fell near her vehicle at the Dillons store at 21st and Rock Road on Feb. 5, 2015.
It was initially thought to be an accident, but Schrader was later charged with involuntary manslaughter, driving under the influence and other crimes after he was found to have a mix of drugs in his system.
Hedke was dragged about 15 feet before Schrader noticed and stopped to render aid, police said in February. She died about 45 minutes later at a Wichita hospital.
In an interview after the hearing, Dennis Hedke said he was pleased with the result. He praised the judge’s decision and prosecutors’ work on the case.
“We’re hopeful that Mr. Schrader will take the necessary steps to never make another mistake of this magnitude again, and that he will take every opportunity to rehabilitate himself while incarcerated,” he said.
Schrader, 23, was jailed and charged with five crimes – including Hedke’s death – in April, more than two months after the fatal collision. He pleaded no contest to the involuntary manslaughter charge, as well as conspiracy to commit drug distribution, in November.
His other charges – driving under the influence, driving while his license is suspended and distribution of marijuana – were dropped as part of his plea deal with prosecutors.
During his sentencing hearing Monday, Schrader apologized to Hedke’s family, calling what happened a “tragic event.”
“If I could go back and change it, I would,” he said.
Hedke’s family, meanwhile, asked District Judge Warren Wilbert to impose the harshest sentence allowed under law.
“At first I did feel bad for the defendant because of his age and youth … but this really wasn’t a mistake,” Reasha Hedke, daughter of Dennis and Annette Hedke, told the judge in court.
“He’s been convicted of a DUI before. This is the second time. It’s a choice to go out and put intoxicating substances in your system. You can do Ubers, you can call a friend. There’s no need to get behind the wheel.”
Schrader’s decision, she continued tearfully, “stole a person’s life. It stole all of our futures.”
Dennis Hedke and the estate of his late wife also are pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit, seeking in excess of $75,000 from Schrader and his mother, who owned the SUV that hit and killed Annette Hedke. The suit claims Schrader should not have been allowed to drive “given his use of drugs and his driving record” and alleges negligence on the part of his mother because she gave her son permission to take her vehicle.
The Hedkes’ attorney, Marc Powell, last week told The Eagle he filed suit to “speed up” the payment of auto insurance benefits.