May 25, 2016, is a date forever burned into the minds of Josh and April Wharton. It was the day their youngest son, 5-year-old Lukas, was struck by a car while playing outside with his siblings.
After eight agonizing days in the hospital, Lukas succumbed to his injuries. With grieving hearts, the Wharton family had to bury their beautiful, healthy, adventurous little boy.
The driver of the car, 70-year-old Myles Keller, had been drinking when his vehicle slammed into the toy wagon Lukas was in while playing on an embankment. Keller immediately stopped and followed the injured boy and his family members up the driveway to his house, calling 911.
Keller’s blood alcohol content was over Minnesota’s legal limit to drive. But, Keller was not charged with the felony of criminal vehicular homicide.
Instead, Keller was initially charged with “one count of reckless driving-conscious disregard of a substantial risk, a gross misdemeanor, and two misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree DWI,” according to the Post-Bulletin. He ended up taking a plea deal, where he plead guilty to one DWI charge — the other charges were dismissed.
Overwhelmed with grief, Josh and April Wharton decided not to push for manslaughter charges. They wished to shield their family from the pain, heartache, and trauma of a long, drawn-out court trial.
On Sept. 1, Keller was sentenced to 30 days in jail. The sentence is to be divided into two terms — the first term beginning on what would have been the boy’s 7th birthday, Oct. 3, and the second on the anniversary of his death.
“Some jail time is appropriate,” Judge Kathy Wallace told Keller, whose lawyer felt that jail time was an inappropriate sentence for the charge. “This DUI is more egregious than the standard DUI that comes before this court every day.”
“I wonder if I’ll ever feel true happiness again,” Josh Wharton expressed. “Lukas was a great kid. He loved his life — I would do anything to hold my little boy again.”
In a statement from April Wharton, read in court by a victim’s advocate, the family tragedy has left Lukas’ siblings traumatized. His siblings, “don’t play like they used to — the impact for them is forever lasting.”
“I still question the why’s and why some prayers were granted and others not,” April Wharton wrote on Facebook. “But we are very thankful for all our kids, each other, our families and friends — having 5 wonderful years with a beautiful boy named Lukas, and this new baby…(I like to think Lukas picked out for us).”
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