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Man to be resentenced for fatal crash

Man to be resentenced for fatal crash

By Judy Reed

Douglas James Crystal will be resentenced in the drunk driving death of Meranda Baguss.

A Cedar Springs man that received 10 years in prison after he fled a crash 2-1/2 years ago that killed a Sand Lake mother and critically injured her twin 5-year-old boys will be resentenced, according to a recent decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals. 

Douglas Crystal, 36, was sentenced on May 3 in Kent County Circuit Court to 10 to 15 years in prison for drunk driving causing death in the crash that killed Meranda Baguss, 33, and three to five years in prison for drunk driving causing serious injury.

Meranda Baguss and her twin 5-year-old boys before the 2017 crash.

On September 15, 2017, at about 8:23 p.m., Crystal was traveling northbound on Ritchie Avenue at about 90 mph in his Ford F150 when he failed to stop at the stop sign at 15 Mile Road and slammed into a 2011 Ford Fusion traveling westbound on 15 Mile Rd. The crash killed the driver of the Ford Fusion, Meranda Baguss, 33, a 2003 graduate of Cedar Springs High School. Her five-year-old twins, Chauncey and Tony Anthony III, were in the back seat in their car seats, and were critically injured. They were taken to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids with life-threatening head injuries.

Crystal, who was reportedly on his way home from a golf outing, fled the scene. He hid from police for about 8 hours before finally being arrested.

He later pled no contest to charges of operating while intoxicated causing death; failure to stop at the scene of an accident causing death; and operating while intoxicated causing serious injury.

According to Court of Appeal Justices Gleicher and Kelly, “The court departed upward from the recommended minimum sentencing guidelines range of 43 to 86 months to sentence defendant to a minimum sentence of 10 years (120 months), a departure of nearly three years. The trial court neither referenced any specific sentencing factor nor determined that a factor inadequately addressed the circumstances in this case. The court justified the departure sentence by repeatedly emphasizing that defendant intended the horrific results of the accident, a fact unsupported in the record. Accordingly, we affirm defendant’s convictions, vacate his sentences, and remand for resentencing before a different judge.”

Justice Markey dissented from Gleicher and Kelly’s opinion. “In view of the death of the children’s mother, the seriousness of the injuries suffered by the wheelchair-bound child who is and will be entirely dependent on others to meet his basic needs to survive for the remainder of his life, and the life-altering brain injury to his brother, I, like the trial court, can only conclude that the 10-year minimum sentence was proportional. In fact, one could even reasonably conclude that the minimum sentence was overly lenient,” she wrote.

Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker was quoted by one news outlet saying he would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. 

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