Bill Morehouse: Driver's sentence for killing daughter is 'crazy'

Bill Morehouse says he has been trapped in a horror story since his daughter, Kelly, died a year ago in crash involving an impaired driver.

"I haven't slept a night since she's died," he said Tuesday. "If I get four hours, I'm lucky. The doctors give me medication, but I wake up right through it. I'm seeing a psychologist once a week."

His nightmare, he said, only worsened Friday when the driver who killed his 25-year-old daughter was sentenced.

Tadashi Mizutani, 69, of Huntington Beach was given a year in county jail and three years of probation, according to a news release from the Orange County district attorney's office. He could face five years in state prison if he does not complete his probation.

The sentencing came two days before the anniversary of Kelly Morehouse's death.

"I told the judge when I got there, 'This guy's sentence is going to end whenever it ends, but my sentence is for life,'" Bill Morehouse, 64, said Tuesday. "My entire life has been completely altered."

On June 1, 2013, Mizutani was driving north on Goldenwest Street in Huntington Beach when he turned left at Rio Vista Drive. He failed to yield for a motorcycle driven by Taylor Rolfson, Kelly Morehouse's fiance, with her on the back.

Rolfson and Morehouse were thrown from the motorcycle. He broke both his legs. She was transported to UCI Medical Center, where she died that night.

Mizutani's blood alcohol content was .13%, according to the district attorney's office release.

He pleaded guilty May 9 to one felony count each of involuntary manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing bodily harm and driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more causing bodily injury. He had pleaded not guilty to those charges in July.

The maximum sentence for that set of charges is seven years, eight months in state prison, the district attorney's office has previously said.

Kelly Morehouse was a popular waitress at the Sugar Shack cafe downtown and was set to begin teaching like her parents, Karen and Bill, who spent their careers at Huntington Beach High School.

Bill Morehouse said about 45 people sitting with the family in the courtroom Friday were not happy with Orange County Superior Court Judge William Evans' ruling.

"He did an adult crime," the father said Tuesday. "We're not here to rehabilitate somebody his age. He did an adult crime and should serve the adult time."

Bill Morehouse said he believes that the court system has failed.

"It's just scary that something like this could happen and that he could basically just get a light slap on the hand and go to jail for a year," he said. "He'll do 10 months and then he'll be out."

Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Jennifer Walker, who prosecuted the case, said Tuesday that she couldn't speak on behalf of the judge, but mentioned that Evans' ruling took into consideration Mizutani's age, his lack of a record and the circumstances of the incident.

Bill Morehouse said he is distraught over the message the sentencing sends to teens and young adults about drinking and driving.

"I thought we were trying to send a hard message to people, especially the youth and everybody else," he said. "Drinking and driving doesn't cut it anymore.... This decision just seems to be crazy."

The Morehouses have done what they could to move forward and carry on Kelly's spirit. On Tuesday, they handed out five $1,000 scholarships to students who are pursuing a career in education.

For Bill Morehouse, the only satisfaction he got from Friday's sentencing was seeing Mizutani being handcuffed and taken to jail.

"That was some closure for me, and it was great to see him go away and watch his family look at him and see what he's done to his family and done to mine," he said.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World