MARSHALL COUNTY, Miss. – Melandus Penson is headed to prison after pleading guilty in the DUI accident that killed 17-year-olds Mattie Kruse and Rachel Lynch.
Lynch’s father, Matthew Lynch, made an emotional plea at the sentencing about the multiple DUI offender.
“There is no excuse the state can offer as to why this person was allowed to be free after all these offenses. These deaths were avoidable,” said Lynch.
Penson’s case spurred action.
Mississippi lawmakers strengthened DUI laws this year.
Instead of allowing multiple offenses to rack up before there is any real jail time, now the 2nd, 3rd and 4th offenses can lead to anywhere from 6 months to 10 years behind bars.
“I think this case has identified certain problems that need to be addressed. I feel certain that they will be,” said Mississippi District Attorney Ben Creekmore.
Law enforcement who arrested Penson in the past never contacted each other about his history.
New laws addressed that too by making it mandatory that the Department of Safety maintain a central database to verify prior offenses and convictions.
Prosecutors said its needed.
“If there can be some type of system where we can tap into a system to see what this particular offender has done. As it stands now, we have to do it manually so to speak by going to each agency,” said Marshall County Prosecutor Shirley Byers.
Those who have lost so much hope new laws can spare others the pain.
“I just think there needs to be some consistency to send a message to people if they are caught for something like this. This is just unacceptable,” said Kerry Lublett, a friend of the DUI victims who died when Penson crashed into them.
“I want the full sentence for him because I don’t want anybody to hurt by it anymore,” said Kara Holden, one of the survivors.
The new laws in Mississippi aren’t the end of the discussion.
There will be a Mississippi DUI Forum in July in Jackson to research ways to improve the DUI prosecution process.