Man gets 20 years for crash that killed pastor's wife

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

A 26-year-old Sedgewickville, Mo., man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday stemming from an auto accident last year in which a Chaffee, Mo., pastor's wife was killed and two others were injured.

Michael Wayne Berry pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and second-degree assault. He admitted that he had been driving under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the accident.

Circuit Judge Benjamin F. Lewis gave Berry 15 years on the manslaughter charge and five years on the assault count. The terms will run consecutively.

Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle was pleased with the sentencing.

He said the major crash team of the Missouri State Highway Patrol "did a phenomenal job. They put together a very solid case."

Rebecca Larkin, 36, was killed, and her husband, the Rev. Darren E. Larkin, Michael Howe, a passenger in Berry's car, and Berry were severely injured in the February 2004 accident.

According to the highway patrol, the Larkins were northbound 2 miles south of Gordonville on Highway 25 when their car was struck head-on by Berry, who was improperly attempting to pass an 18-wheel truck.

Rebecca Larkin was pronounced dead at the scene from a broken neck.

Her husband was the minister of the Chaffee First Assembly of God.

"I'm just glad the case is over and my daughter and I can move on with our lives," he said after sentencing.

"This meth situation is so bad ... it's the best sentence we can hope for in the system we now have," Larkin said.

The Larkins had been at the Chaffee church since September 2003. The two were originally from Oklahoma but had spent the past 19 years in Tennessee, where their grown daughter now resides.

lcianci@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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