Repeat drunk driver gets life in pedestrian’s death |

Repeat drunk driver gets life in pedestrian’s death

by Tom Lotshaw

Convicted of gross negligence vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and hit-and-run, Larry Lee Halverson was sentenced Monday to 20 years to life in prison Monday.

El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Steven Bailey called it a "particularly distressing case" before sentencing Halverson, 61, to 15 years to life for the first felony conviction and a consecutive, five-year enhancement for the second felony.

"It is no pleasure to sentence you to prison for life, but based on your 20- to 25-year record, or even longer, this court has no other opportunity or choice but to send you to prison for life," Bailey told Halverson.

Halverson was convicted October 2013 in connection with the death of 51-year-old Patrick Purnell two years earlier. Purnell was crossing Ski Run Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe on Sept. 4, 2011. He died of his injuries 31 days later.

A jury found Halverson to be driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of the collision, but below a legal threshold of .08 percent. Jurors also found Halverson was driving on a suspended license, not wearing his corrective eye glasses, and fled the scene and failed to render aid or notify police after the fatal collision.

Halverson has eight prior convictions for driving under the influence. He faced the life sentence under special provisions in California law for repeat DUI offenders who are convicted of gross negligence vehicular manslaughter.

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"Ultimately you did just what we fear people will do when addicted or drunk: You killed someone," Bailey said.

Purnell's mother, Peggy Purnell-Van Soldt, told the court that reliving everything "over and over" for Halverson's trial was difficult.

Purnell-Van Soldt said the family has no grudge against Halverson but she asked Bailey to impose the maximum possible sentence. Halverson has "problems no man can fix, only the Lord," and it was just a matter of time before he killed himself or someone else, she said.

"We were devastated to find out Larry Lee Halverson had so many priors, and to be able to get behind a vehicle and do this. We just want him off the road so it does not happen to anyone else."

Court officials must prepare a time credit study for Halverson, who was 60 years old at the time of the collision. At a minimum, Halverson will get credit for 559 days already served plus credit for 85 good-conduct days, Bailey said.

Halverson is eligible for no more than 15 percent good-conduct credit. If he is released after 20 years in prison he faces life on parole.

Halverson has filed a notice of intent to appeal his conviction. The sentence was handed down several weeks after Halverson's request for a new trial was rejected.

Halverson had more than a half-dozen convictions for driving under the influence and served time in prison after he was convicted in Douglas County.

Convicted of a second felony DUI in Douglas County in January 2009, he was sentenced to 2-6 years in prison. He was paroled by the Nevada Department of Corrections on July 29, 2010, after serving 18 months of his sentence. Halverson had been out of prison for just over a year when he struck and killed Purnell.

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