The Holland man was sentenced by Judge Jon Hulsing for the crash that killed 65-year-old Sandra DeBoer and seriously injured her grandson, Gavin DeBoer.
The crash took place at the intersection of the I-196 Business Loop and 104th Avenue in Holland Township on Jan. 3. Burrows ran a red light while speeding in a pickup truck, broadsiding DeBoer’s two-door Audi A6 as she entered the intersection.
DeBoer was pronounced dead at the scene and Gavin was taken to the hospital in critical condition.
Burrows was charged with reckless driving causing death and reckless driving causing serious impairment. Together, along with his fourth-offense habitual offender notice, these charges meant Burrows was facing a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison. Burrows pleaded no contest to the charges.
Hulsing sentenced Burrows to 9-40 years in prison on each charge, to be served at the same time. He was given credit for already serving 79 days in jail, and has been turned over to the Michigan Department of Corrections.
“I’m sorry for the DeBoers’ loss and the injury of their child,” Burrows said before he was sentenced. “I know what it’s like to lose someone. I pray for them, and I pray they will be forgiving.”
Originally scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 20, Hulsing pushed back the court date after learning Burrows had previously been involved in another fatal crash. At Monday’s sentencing, Hulsing said he had researched Burrows’ involvement and discovered that the man had run over and killed one of his friends in 1992 during a snowmobile crash when he was 16. Burrows said the teenage girl was on an inner tube, and he couldn’t see her as he came over a small hill.
“In a written letter to the court, you indicate, ‘I honestly don’t know who to blame, but I will serve a life sentence knowing that someone’s mom, sister, grandma was taken that day,’” Hulsing said to Burrows. “I’ll be a little bit blunt — this is presumably the second life sentence that you have self-imposed.”
Burrows also has an extensive driving record, including having his license suspended nine times since 2000. He also has been found guilty of breaking and entering and shoplifting. This past June, Burrows tested positive for cocaine use. He is also a registered sex offender.
“Young adults sometimes do unwise things, (but) you look at what actions the person has done as a result of that learning experience,” Hulsing said to Burrows. “In 2006, however, you sexually assaulted a minor. This was the second family that you harmed. You of all people know the ramifications of operating a vehicle negligently — yet, 25 years later, you consciously disregarded the rights of Ms. DeBoer and Gavin.”
Gavin, a fourth-grader at Zeeland Christian School, spent five days in the hospital, then 10 days at Mary Free Bed and, afterward, several months recovering from his injuries. He underwent several surgeries while dealing with the loss of his grandmother, his mother said in court. Gavin’s vision was damaged in the crash, causing him to be unable to participate in sports.
After causing the fatal crash in January, Burrows was caught driving on a suspended license. Hulsing said the continued pattern of Burrows’ behavior is problematic.
“In between, you’ve harmed individuals,” the judge told him at Monday’s hearing. “You’re sorry, but your sorrow is simply insufficient to protect the public from your actions. You haven’t learned from your errors — I don’t want a third victim out there.
“I think it’s important that you put to rest any notion that the death of DeBoer and the injuries to Gavin were the result of an accident that could happen to anyone,” Hulsing continued. “You were consciously traveling 10 (mph) over the speed limit, and the red light was red for several seconds before you entered the intersection. The result was a tragic collision.”