Emotions run high during sentencing hearing for fatal drunken-driving crash

'He was everything,' Cory Folts' fiancee tells defendant
Kelly Crispin is led back to the Oconto County Jail after being sentenced to prison for the crash that killed Cory Folts, 22, of Oconto Falls. (Warren Bluhm | NEW Media)
Warren Bluhm
News Editor

OCONTO — The emotions were still raw 324 days after Cory Folts died.

It took 324 days from the moment Kelly Crispin’s truck slammed into Folts’ car, killing the Oconto Falls man instantly, until Crispin was formally sentenced to spend 15 years in the custody of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

During an Oconto County Circuit Court hearing where grief hung heavy in the air, Folts’ father, his fiancee, and later Crispin herself shared their anguish over the loss of Folts, a 22-year-old man who was already hard at work on plans for a long and productive life.

“My boy was something else, you ask any of his friends and he had a lot of friends,” Jeff Folts told Crispin from the witness stand. “He just bought his first house – 22 years old. What you took from me and my family is just never forgiven.”

“Literally every single day I wake up and go about my day, but I live with what could my future have been, where would we be right now, where would life be,” Maddy Wilbur said tearfully. “He was my future husband, the future father of my kids, he was everything — and overnight you took it, over your selfish decision.”

Crispin, 27, of St. Paul, Minnesota, and her companion, Eric W. Solomon, had been drinking and were having an argument as she drove south along U.S. Highway 41-141 in the town of Abrams on Sept. 11. Suddenly Solomon slugged her in the right temple, slamming her head against the driver’s side window, and grabbed the wheel.

The car leaped across the median and crashed into Folts, who was driving home after a workday in Green Bay.

“I know I should not have been behind the wheel that night, and I know I took life from a living, breathing human,” Crispin wrote in a letter to Judge Michael T. Judge before sentencing. “Not a day goes by that I’m not literally suffocated by the guilt, I go over every detail of that crash every single night. I realize I’ll never be the same, and that is nothing compared to the heartache the Folts feel every day. In all honesty, I wish it would have been me …”

The crash occurred just south of the intersection of the four-lane highway with County Road D, which Folts’ mother, Tracy Folts, noted in her own letter to the judge.

“Three hundred feet before the accident is an off-ramp that leads to two gas stations that Kelly could have gotten off the highway for some help if Eric Solomon was fighting with her,” Tracy wrote. “And in 300 feet, our son would have been off the highway, and maybe we would not be going through all of this hell and broken hearts.”

After the crash Solomon fled into a nearby cornfield, authorities said, while Crispin stayed at the scene and accepted responsibility.

Crispin wrote to the judge that she “vividly remember looking into his car and thinking, ‘This is somebody’s child.’”

Given a chance to make a statement before Judge pronounced sentence, Crispin turned to Folts’ family and friends waiting in the gallery and apologizing directly to Wilbur and Folts’ parents.

“I know no amount of apologies will ever bring him back, but I am so sorry,” she said.

Judge, who referred several times to a pre-sentence investigator’s report, said that Crispin, a mother of two children, had prior drug convictions stemming from a habit that began when she started using heroin in middle school. She had been through rehabilitation and diversion programs without success.

The children, ages 7 and 5, are being raised by family members in California, while for the four months prior to the crash she wandered with Solomon through Texas, Wyoming and Wisconsin, Judge noted.

“For a mom to allow herself to not be with her children, under the influence of drugs and alcohol to an extreme … She was on a path to some problems that certainly no one could anticipate this would occur, but her relationship with an individual such as Eric Solomon – a volatile individual – was not going to lead to anything good,” he said.

The prosecution and defense agreed on a joint recommendation for Crispin to spend seven and a half years in a state prison, followed by seven and a half years of extended supervision, for a total sentence of 15 years.

They made essentially the same recommendation in Solomon’s case, but Judge imposed a harsher, 20-year term. For Crispin, he accepted the recommendation, noting that she has cooperated with authorities from the beginning and was willing to testify against Solomon if it had gone to trial. Both defendants pleaded no contest after negotiations with prosecutors.

Judge said that during Crispin’s extended supervision, she must maintain absolute sobriety and spend 80 hours a year speaking to groups about the consequences of drunken driving.

“We have to keep drunk drivers off the road, period, and there has to be a consequence for drunk drivers,” he said.

He gave Crispin credit for the 324 days she spent in the Oconto County Jail from the night of the crash through Thursday morning’s sentencing hearing.