Brown gets 10 years in double-fatality crash
A man who pleaded guilty to causing an accident that killed two people more than a year ago heard from the victim’s families before being sentenced Tuesday.
Austin W. Brown, 21, of Fort Dodge, received 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide by reckless conduct. He admitted that, on Dec. 21, 2012, he crashed his GMC pickup into a Ford Escape on Nelson Avenue, just south of John F. Kennedy Memorial Park.
Joseph Reigelsberger, 23, of Rolfe, and Debra Lundt, 57, of Pocahontas, were both killed in the crash.
Brown had previously told 2nd Judicial District Chief Judge Kurt Wilke that he was texting and had three drugs in his system at the time of the crash.
At his sentencing, Brown heard four victim impact statements from members of both the Reigelsberger and Lundt families.
Kaitlin Reigelsberger, the twin sister of Joseph Reigelsberger, said she and her brother had a “perfect childhood” growing up, and remained close.
“Instead of our lives being perfect, here we are in a courtroom,” Kaitlin Reigelsberger said. “The last 13 months have been the most painful and trying of my life.”
Kaitlin Reigelsberger also described her brother as “the second-hardest working man I knew behind my father,” and said he loved doing farm work.
Reigelsberger also spoke directly to Brown.
“I’m not going to sit here and call you every curse word in the book,” she said. “My twin proved more success in 23 years on earth than you ever have.”
She said she feels bitter and that her brother should still be alive and married to his fiancee, Anastasia Lundt, Debra Lundt’s daughter.
Anastasia Lundt, who was also injured in the accident, described her fiancee and mother as “real, genuine, precious people.”
“My mom was my best friend in the only way a mom could be,” Anastasia Lundt said. “I talked to her every single day.”
She added her mother was a “silent leader” who was modest, especially in her work as the owner of a flower shop in Pocahontas.
“She’ll always be my hero,” Anastasia Lundt said.
She began dating Joseph Reigelsberger when she was 16 years old, and described him as a man who loved his work and his family.
“Joe loved farming, and there’s not many 23-year-old men who loved working with their father,” Lundt said. “But Joe did. He loved working for his dad because he loved his dad.”
Lundt and Reigelsberger were planning on getting married June 15, 2013.
“He was too young for this death sentence,” she said.
She told Brown that he has to live with his decisions for the rest of his life.
“You made the choice to do drugs and get into a vehicle,” she said. “I hope you think about my mom and Joe for the rest of your life.”
Fern Funk, Debra Lundt’s mother, had also written a statement that was read by family friend Donna Seehusen.
In her note, Funk criticized Brown for his actions.
“Do you care that because of you I’ll never be able to have my precious daughter?” Seehusen read from Funk’s statement. “They were two fine Christian people whose lives were taken too soon, all because of your selfish decisions.”
Joseph Reigelsberger’s mother, Sue Reigelsberger, said the loss of her son changed her life forever.
“His death ripped a hole in our heart and our lives that will never be healed,” she said.
Before he was sentenced, Brown made a brief statement to the Lundt and Reigelsberger families.
“I’ve yet to come to peace with myself,” Brown said. “I’m very sorry for the decisions on my part that night.”
He also asked the families for forgiveness.
In addition to Brown’s 10-year prison sentence, he also has to pay $150,000 in restitution for both Lundt and Reigelsberger’s families. He also must pay $11,282.27 in restitution to the Crime Victim Assistance Division of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
After sentencing, Sue Reigelsberger said the focus should now be on remembering Debra Lundt and Joseph Reigelsberger.
“Today between Kaitlin and Anastasia, they expressed a lot about their lives and what was taken from them that night,” Reigelsberger said. “We need to remember them.”