A woman who gained worldwide attention last year for her smiling jail mugshot after a horrific crash left another woman clinging to life for four days has been sentenced in the case.
Angenette Marie Welk, 46, whose blood-alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit after the deadly crash in Ocala, will spend the next 11 years behind bars in a state prison. Judge Steven G. Rogers handed down the sentence Thursday in a Marion County courtroom as Welk sat quietly next to her attorney, Stacy Youmans.
The judge has also ordered Welk, who explained the smiling mugshot as being caused by nervousness and fear, to write an essay each year on what she’s learned since the day of the deadly crash. And he put on her on probation for 15 years.
The crash, at the intersection of NW 60th Avenue and U.S. Hwy. 27 on May 10, 2018, happened when Welk’s 2011 Chevrolet Avalanche slammed into the back of a 2017 Hyundai Elantra driven by 18-year-old Shiyanne Kroll, of Seattle. Her mother, Sandra Clarkston, of Sarasota, was sitting in the passenger seat and was critically injured when the Hyundai was pushed partially underneath a horse trailer being pulled by a 2016 Freightliner semi-truck. Clarkston died four days later at Ocala Regional Medical Center.
Both the semi, which was driven by 65-year-old Kevin McMinn, of Ocala, and Kroll’s vehicle were sitting at a red light when they were hit by Welk’s SUV at 73 mph. She told the Florida Highway Patrol trooper who investigated the crash that she had dropped her phone and when she looked up, she was about to collide with Kroll’s sedan.
Before the sentence was handed down, Welk addressed Clarkston’s family.
“I’d like to start by saying how terribly sorry I am for the tragic loss that you are suffering,” she sobbed. “I hope and pray that one day you’ll find it in your heart to start to forgive me.”
Prior to Clarkston’s death, Welk had been charged with one count of driving under the influence with serious bodily harm and two counts of DUI with property damage. She had provided two breath samples showing .172 and .165 blood alcohol content – both twice the legal limit of .08 in Florida.
Welk, who married Eric Missett seven days after the crash, had been living in Washington State but her $40,000 bond was revoked in March and she was ordered to return to Marion County. The decision came after Judge Rogers reviewed records showing medical treatment Welk had sought on Feb. 23-24. The judge didn’t specify what kind of treatment she received but cited the case of Barns v. State, which prevented a man involved in a similar DUI manslaughter case from consuming alcohol.
Last month, Welk decided to forgo a jury trial and pleaded no contest to a charge of DUI manslaughter and two counts of DUI with property damage – a turn of events that didn’t sit well with Clarkston’s daughter, Keonna Sciacca.
“It’s a pretty open-and-shut case and what she did was just murder with a vehicle but not a gun,” Sciacca said at the time. “I think all too often this happens and I don’t agree with it.”
On Thursday, a large contingent of Clarkston’s family was in the courtroom to hear the judge’s verdict. Her twin brother, Daniel, Kroll and Sciacca were overcome with emotion as they testified about Sandra Clarkston.
“Since this happened, I lost a piece of me that I will never get back,” Sciacca said. “The grief, pain and emptiness will never end. I have nothing but anger in me.”
Daniel Clarkston, who said his sister was a “beautiful” person and is missed, had arrived at the courthouse quite early Thursday morning with a gruesome reminder of the crash for those attending the hearing – Kroll’s mangled Hyundai sedan. He had towed the vehicle on a trailer behind his pickup truck and parked it outside the courthouse in hopes that everyone attending the sentencing – including the judge – would see it.
“I don’t see no remorse over it,” Daniel Clarkston said on the stand. “I’m not a vindictive person. But your honor, whatever you do, I trust you’ll do the right thing, and I respect you,” he said to Judge Rogers.
Daniel Clarkston, who along with family members celebrated his sister’s birthday at the crash site last week, also took a moment to thank all of the first responders, doctors and nurses who helped his sister.
“She went to her grave without a whole body. She was missing a leg and she wasn’t whole,” he said, referring to the fact that a portion of Sandra Clarkston’s leg was amputated in an attempt to save her life before she died. “But she’s whole now, because I know where she’s at.”
Welk’s husband testified on behalf of his wife and told Clarkston’s family that she is a good person. He said he and his entire family are sorry for their loss and respect the raw emotions that were evident in the courtroom.
“I want to express the deepest condolences,” Missett said. “We’re like you. We’re good people.”
Missett added that he has seen how his wife has suffered from the crash and the death of Clarkston.
“I watched the remorse, the deep grief, the sorrow, the despondency,” he said. “I watched that. I was there. I showed up on scene and I’ve tried to be with her every second of the day.”
Welk’s daughter, Bayley, also offered her condolences to Clarkston’s family while at the same time defending her mother’s character.
“I know she is sorry for the pain she has caused everybody,” she said. “She has made a horrible, life-changing decision but it was not forced. She did not wake up that morning and decide that she wanted to hurt people. I promise you if she could take this back, she would.”
Outside the courtroom, Daniel Clarkston and his nieces said they were happy with the sentence Welk received.
“I think the judge did the right thing. I agree with what he did,” he said. “But I don’t think she (Welk) was sincere at all.”
“I am happy that she is doing 11 years, however, it’s never going to take away the way I feel,” she said. “I will never, ever forgive her for anything and I hope that she thinks about her actions every day that she serves her time.”