Waukesha - Christine M. Druecke hung her head and sobbed as a judge told her Thursday she was going to jail for a hit-and-run incident in December 2009 that severely injured a Brookfield police officer, who was hurt so bad that he never was able to return to the job and had to give up his law-enforcement career.
Druecke, 53, of Brookfield, was hoping to get probation, but Waukesha County Circuit Judge Kathryn W. Foster instead gave her eight months in jail with work-release privileges.
"Even good people make mistakes and have to be held accountable," Foster told Druecke, the co-owner of a Brookfield gymnastics and dance studio who had no prior criminal record.
Foster handed out the sentence after former Officer Paul Dilger, who had to retire from the force last month, and his wife, Linda, told Foster how their lives had been shattered since the incident.
Dilger, who was walking along a road when he was struck, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, a torn ACL and deformation of the spinal cord.
Dilger, 37, had to learn how to walk again. He has had to go through speech therapy.
His back injury is so severe that he cannot pick up his 8-month-old son.
His wife had to drop out of nursing school to care for him.
Druecke entered a guilty plea in September to a charge of hit-and-run involving injury, a lesser felony than the hit-and-run with great bodily harm charge originally filed against her in July 2010.
Foster's sentence was one month shy of the maximum nine months in jail Druecke could have received.
But it is far less time behind bars than Druecke would have faced under the original charge, a maximum 10 years in prison.
Druecke was accused of striking Dilger at 12:12 a.m. Dec. 11, 2009, as he walked along W. North Ave., and failing to stop after hitting him.
According to the criminal complaint and police reports, Dilger was on foot with two other officers when he was hit by Druecke's car.
The three were responding to a report of a suicide threat at a residence in the 19100 block of W. North Ave. They had parked their squad cars and were walking west on North Ave. to the residence when Dilger was struck by a westbound vehicle.
Druecke turned herself in on Dec. 14, 2009, and told Brookfield police that she was driving on North Ave. at the time the officer was injured.
She told police that she did not recall whether she passed a parked police car on North Ave., but that she admitted striking what she thought was a deer.
She said she continued to her home, which is nearby, and saw that her vehicle was damaged.
Druecke would not tell police where she was or what she had been doing in the hours before the officer was hit, the complaint says.
But police received an anonymous letter Dec. 21, 2009, reporting that Druecke had been at Fiesta Garibaldi before the incident, the complaint says. Police reviewed credit card receipts and found one from Druecke for $77.41 just before midnight Dec. 10.
In court Thursday, Druecke's attorney, David P. Geraghty, told Foster that he had advised Druecke not to tell officers where she had been. He also said in court that Druecke said she had consumed two beers and two margaritas while dining with her sister.
District Attorney Brad Schimel said the only conclusion he could make about why Druecke didn't stop after striking something that night was because she was intoxicated.
But he also said he and the Dilger family agreed to a plea bargain with Druecke for several reasons. The case was complicated and had it gone to trial, there was no guarantee of a conviction, he said. Although there was human DNA on Druecke's car, it couldn't be determined whose it was and while her car had some damage, there wasn't other physical evidence showing it struck Dilger, he said.
Both Schimel and Geraghty noted it would have been likely that investigators never would have known who struck Dilger had Druecke not turned herself in.
Dilger told Foster, "I don't believe we'll ever find out the truth about what really happened that night. But because of her actions my life has been changed forever."
Before she was sentenced Druecke apologized.
"I'm truly sorry for everything officer Dilger and his family have been through and I wish him the best in the future," Druecke said. "It has crossed my mind many times over the past two years if I made the right decision to come forward. I have considered the probability that if I had not I most likely would not be charged with a crime."
She continued, "It would be untruthful if I told you that I haven't thought about what consequences I would have avoided by simply remaining silent. But that's only human."
Turning herself in, she said, "was the only decision I could make. It was the right one."
The Dilgers filed a lawsuit against Druecke and her insurance company. In documents filed with that suit, the Dilgers state that they have medical expenses and lost wages totaling $364,000 so far.
They are seeking unspecified damages from Druecke and her insurance company. Druecke had policies carrying $1.5 million in coverage.
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Former mayor Jeff Speaker will challenge Steve Ponto in Brookfield
- Tax case, Sileno talks run up city legal fees
- Ask NOW: What is the procedure for plowing snow?
- City trails ahead in its Greenway path plans
- Brookfield Square plans for 9 new stores, 70,000 square foot expansion
- German Holiday Market grows in second year
- Ask NOW: Are there local families who will use a food pantry this Thanksgiving?
- Donations light up Elm Grove library
- Blaze Pizza offers fast personal pizzas
- On the Move: Dec. 5