Driver In DUI Crash That Killed Four, Sentenced To 24 Years

A Jessamine County woman who killed four people in a DUI crash has learned how long she'll spend behind bars. Sentencing for Melissa Helton was held Friday morning in Nicholasville.

She pleaded gully in January to four counts of murder. Prosecutors say she was drunk at the time of the crash.

The emotions in the courtroom on Friday morning ranged from anger to sadness.

Rhonda Preston's 10-year-old daughter, Emily, was killed in the crash. Preston was there as Helton received her sentence of 24 years in prison, but it didn't bring her much peace.

"Life wouldn't have been enough for me. I think she should have to burn alive like them," Preston said.

Erica Key lost her little brother, Caleb Hildenbrandt, in the crash. She says the 24 year sentence wasn't harsh enough.

"I think she should have got 24 years for each child.," said Key. "I think the justice system failed us."

While some are trying to find forgiveness for Melissa Helton, others hope the community can learn something from the tragedy.

"I just hope people realize not to get behind the wheel after drinking," said Key.

While the court battle may be over, the personal battles these families deal with will never be over. But they are going on, even trying to forgive.

"I have to try to find forgiveness so I can go on," said Preston.

Helton's own son, Nicholas, also died in the crash along with an adult, Lori Latham.

Helton may also be required to help pay for funeral costs, but the details still need to be worked out in court.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Shabrea Location: Nicholasvile on Mar 9, 2008 at 01:52 PM
    i can't belive she killed 3 kids and an adult and i was friends with emily preston, i had seen caled around school and i had said hey to nicholas but my cousin breana knew nicholas and in the yearbook caleb's picture is the only different one and it was the last yearbook before he died. like caleb's sister said 24 years for each person killed inthe wreck and i wish she wasn't drunk that night and i am glad she is in prison and i know it is hard for madison and i wosh i could change the past, but i can't. but something that is weird is that the news was ont the mornign or the next morning of the crash, and i started watching it and i was like oh well that is hopefully no one i know an dthen that day at school the teachers were crying and for the next week of so we made pictures and cards for madison abd those who died in the crash. i was in the pony corral at our school and we sang for their parents and other family and the whole school and i am really glad we did. so let those 3 r.i.p
  • by sad on Mar 2, 2008 at 12:41 PM
    keep drunk drivers off the road. they have no right to put someone else's life in danger or even kill someone.
  • by sad on Mar 1, 2008 at 09:18 PM
    not everyone drinks. some people drink but would never drive. i have never been drunk. i have only one child who is my life. if a drunk driver took her away from me i probably kill he or she with my bare hands. i love my daughter and no one has the right to put her life in danger because they want to have fun drinking. (edited) drinking period. if you drank then keep your sorry (edited) of the road. don't harm someone else because you want to have some good old dranking fun. and if you are caught drinking and driving you should never be aloud to drive again. STOP DRUNKS FROM DRIVING PERIOD.
  • by Cindy Location: Somerset on Feb 13, 2008 at 10:19 PM
    Wow. She must have stolen the van they were in because she got sentenced like a thief. Everyone knows you get less time for murder in Kentucky then you do for stealing. Finally a sentence that fits the crime.
  • by Terry Location: Kentucky on Feb 13, 2008 at 02:38 PM
    24 years, have you took a look at that? Ms. Helton will be somewhere in her 60's in 24 years. Her daughter will be in her 30's. It is such a shame that most of you see yourselves above this ladies crime. I must ask how can you be her judge and jury? Can you honestly say you have never drove, drunk, medicated or even on very little rest? How would you like to spend the next 24 years behind bars, thinking everyday about what you have done, the lives you took. The years you have wasted. It could easily one day be you and don't say never, because never is as short a time as 24 years is to some of you. The courts handed out just sentence. Death for her would have been the easy way out. Most of you are just wanting to see more blood shed, that is why our country is in the shape it is in. Our people are so quick to judge others, they never see that they too are less then perfect. Foolish is the man who never learns to forgive, for he is never forgiven. She has a life sentence.
  • by I know on Feb 13, 2008 at 01:21 PM
    The police in this case did several things wrong, and made several legal issues that would have come out in court. If this would have went to trial the Commonwealth would have had several problems that may have resulted in a mistrial or a not guilty. 24 years is a gift. It's not so cut and dry as she was drinking and driving. I believe it should be, but it's not. You should discuss why the police did what they did and fix it, so when this happens again they are ready. Don't take cases you can not work.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 13, 2008 at 11:16 AM
    As a cop, I'll be the first to tell you that what she did was wrong and a lot of people have been killed or emotionally hurt by it. But, everyday drunk drivers are all over Kentucky's roadways. It's unbelievable to me how much #@$% the general public gives officers for arresting these pieces of #$%. "Oh, he's ok", "He's a good o'l boy, why don't you let him go", "Why don't you go after the real criminals?", "He's just trying to get home", I've heard them all. It would be great if all of the negative energy on this board were directed toward the courts, to have them really do something to the first or second time DUI's. After all, they do the same thing this woman did, except they were lucky enough to make it home. I look at every DUI as a direct threat to my friends and family on the road and handle them accordingly. ..you should too. Put your actions where your mouth is and call your lawmakers for stronger DUI laws.
  • by Anonymous Location: Here on Feb 12, 2008 at 09:10 PM
    It amazes me at the lack of compassion people have for the woman sentenced. Don't get me wrong...I think she needs to go away for life, but she doesn't need to be "burnt alive." She needs help... alcoholism is a serious problem and this woman needs some kind of rehabilitation/counseling program.
  • by Guess WHO on Feb 12, 2008 at 04:09 PM
    Thats not enough time for her.those kids didnt need to die because she wanted to drink and drive. And she killed her own best friend
  • by dustin Location: powell on Feb 11, 2008 at 04:19 PM
    she be burnt alive like she they did the kid will never see them gorw up so never drick and drive the same tim so she so get shoot or the chair and i agree with the mom

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