Madison man receives two years in prison for 2016 hit-and-run pedestrian death

September 25, 2018


A Madison man was sentenced Monday to two years in prison for the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian that happened just over two years ago this month.

Dane County Circuit Judge Stephen Ehlke said the fact that Douglas R. Waldschmidt knew he had probably struck a human being, but drove home and covered his minivan with a tarp, tipped the scale in favor of sending him to prison.

Waldschmidt, 63, told the family of Jesse Morales, 53, that he was sorry for the “pain and suffering I’ve caused.”

“I was a coward and selfish,” he said.

Waldschmidt struck Morales, of Madison, near the corner of North Sherman and Commercial avenues on Sept. 2, 2016. Morales died two days later at UW Hospital from injuries he received in the crash.

Ehlke said factors in Waldschmidt’s favor included a record that was clean but for two old drunken-driving convictions and a life that was otherwise pretty ordinary.

“He appears to be in all other respects a law-abiding citizen,” Ehlke said. “But the failures in this particular case were extreme.”

Waldschmidt will also serve five years of extended supervision after his release from prison.

After striking Morales, Waldschmidt stopped briefly but did not get out of his minivan, then drove home and covered the van with a tarp. Maple Bluff police found car parts left at the scene, and using serial numbers from the parts, investigators traced them to a gold Mazda MPV minivan registered to Waldschmidt, a criminal complaint states.

Waldschmidt showed police his van when they arrived at his home on Sept. 4, 2016. He initially told police that he thought he had hit a deer.

Ehlke said that after the crash, Waldschmidt either knew he had hit someone and was impaired by alcohol and feared getting into trouble, or wasn’t impaired at all and went home knowing that someone had been hurt. Ehlke found the second scenario more troubling.

But because of the delay in tracking down Waldschmidt, there was no way to know whether he was impaired while driving.

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne asked for five years in prison, followed by five years of extended supervision, arguing that Morales’ death warranted the time in prison.

Waldschmidt’s lawyer, Corey Chirafisi, argued for seven years of probation with some time in the Dane County Jail as a condition of probation. He said that tests showed Morales was impaired by drugs at the time and was standing in the road, while Waldschmidt, who was not speeding excessively, had a green light. Still, he said, he was not blaming Morales for what happened.

Morales’ brother-in-law, Carl Jones, said Morales’ sister, Ramona Jones, was devastated by Morales’ death and said that his entire family has also felt the loss.

“Since he’s no longer with us, it’s not the same anymore,” Jones said. “I understand (Waldschmidt’s) age and such, but you have to pay for your crime.”

Though the case was filed in 2016, it was delayed for nearly 1½ years while courts ruled on several challenges to the state’s hit-and-run law. Criminal defense attorneys, including Chirafisi, had said the law was poorly worded and vague. Once Circuit Judge Ellen Berz denied Waldschmidt’s challenges in February, the case went forward and Waldschmidt pleaded guilty in July.

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