NEW CASTLE — A drugged driver who seriously injured a New Castle woman in 2018 will avoid jail or prison time after a judge accepted a plea agreement Monday.
Carol Wickes apologized to the victim, Peggy Claar, who she hit and seriously injured in February 2018.
“I am so sorry,” said Wickes to the victim in court as she cried. “I did not mean to hurt anyone.”
Claar has undergone 15 surgeries in four years and uses a cane to walk.
Wickes was under the influence of prescription drugs when she crashed into Claar’s car.
A toxicology report shows Wickes had two drugs in her system, Zolpidem, a sedative found in Ambien, and Cyclobenzaprine, a muscle relaxant.
Wickes pleaded guilty Monday to Count One; Causing Serious Bodily Injury when Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated.
Prosecutors dismissed the remaining charges—Public Intoxication, Refusal to Submit to Breath or Chemical Test and Driving Left of Center.
WRTV Investigates did some checking and found Causing Serious Bodily Injury when Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated, a Level 6 felony, carries a maximum penalty of 2.5 years behind bars.
Instead of jail, Wickes received the following:
- 2.5 years suspended sentence that runs through June 19, 2025
- Formal probation including 1 year, 3 months electronic home detention
- 1 year refusal license suspension (already served by Wickes)
- 2.5 years license suspension
- Restitution to be determined by the court at a later time
The victim, Peggy Claar, wrote a letter to the judge asking him to reject the no-jail sentence.
“I was disappointed because I feel like she's going to turn around and do it again,” said Claar in response to the judge approving the sentence. “I think she should have gone to jail for the maximum amount of time.”
Claar did not feel Wickes’ apology was genuine.
“I felt like she wasn't really sorry for what she did to me, but that she was sorry she was going to have to pay some consequences for it,” said Claar.
In her statement to the court Monday morning, Claar outlined how difficult it is for her to work and perform simple tasks like baking.
“I am in constant pain,” said Claar.
Wickes has no other criminal history and had nothing to say to WRTV as she left the Henry County Justice Center to get her electronic monitor hooked up.
The judge acknowledged the sentence is not fair to Peggy Claar given the extent of her injuries.
“This is not a fair outcome not by any stretch of the imagination,” said Henry County Circuit Court 3 Judge David McCord. “The problem is there is no fair outcome.”
Judge McCord pointed out that Wickes had no criminal record, has accepted responsibility and has committed no new crimes since 2018.
The judge also said the maximum sentence for a level 6 felony is 2.5 years.
If Wickes violates the terms of her home detention or probation, she could be ordered to serve the 2.5 years in jail or prison.
The judge also expressed concerns about the growing problem of drugged driving.
Indiana Mothers Against Drunk Driving released the following statement in response to the sentence.
“I think getting no jail time from a victim perspective shows no remorse from an offender. I think it also sends a message to all drivers that it’s ok to drive under the influence and it clearly teaches people that you are not responsible for your actions and if anything you will get a slap on the hand. Although this victim survived she has multiple issues from this and the trauma from such will be a long time of healing. We need to do better for victims and families in the State of Indiana. Our mission of MADD is to educate people of options to not drive under the influence. Also we want offenders to know their consequences when making a choice but when you hear that they just get probation it sends a very wrong and mixed message. “
-Yolanda Coriano, Victim service specialist for Indiana MADD
Peggy Claar has filed a civil lawsuit against Carol Wickes and other parties, and the lawsuit is still pending.
“Peggy suffered a tremendous loss, both physically and mentally,” said her attorney Rob King of Indianapolis. “She’s lost years of her life. And the civil justice is designed to try to even that out.”
The lawsuit accuses Wickes of negligence.