Colby Blake, the 27-year-old Cannelburg man who struck and killed volunteer firefighter Kendall Murphy in a November of 2017 incident, was sentenced Wednesday to 2,160 days (just under six years) in the Indiana Department of Corrections by Daviess County Superior Court Judge Dean Sobecki.
In a jam-packed courtroom filled with family, friends and first responders, emotions ran high during the sentencing that lasted nearly three hours and included statements from not only the Murphy family and Jessica Padgett, Kendall's fiancee', but also some individuals who know Blake.
"Being a firefighter and an EMT, he should have known better (to drive under the influence of alcohol) and never broke that trust," said Kendall's father, Dwayne Murphy, who has served for 31 years as a volunteer firefighter as well as 17 years with the Washington Fire Department.
It's been 21 months since Kendall, who also served as mentor and basketball coach at Barr-Reeve, was taken from his family. That 21 months seems like a lifetime for the Murphy family.
Back in March, Blake took a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, a level 5 felony. Blake was originally was charged with causing death while operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .15 percent or above, a level 6 felony.
"Responding to accidents and seeing as many deaths as I've seen, some being with alcohol involved, I always told Katrina (Kendall's mother) there was no way I could ever forgive someone when they hurt my family," said Dwayne, who told Sobecki and the others huddled into the benches in the circuit courtroom that he and his family had forgiven Blake and even went to visit him while he was in jail.
Forgiving Blake, who the family had known for a number of years, the Murphys believed would help spur the wheels of justice to move a little quicker, but that wasn't the case.
"We thought we visited him and forgave him, we were reaching out and I really thought deep down that he would take responsibility for his actions and not plead not guilty and wait on a plea bargain," said a visibly emotional Dwayne, who admitted the long wait for sentencing has left a bitter taste. "I just feel like it's taken way too long."
Dwayne said rehashing all those memories nearly two years later is still difficult and sometimes it's still difficult to do his job.
"I put my Montgomery pager away for a long time," he said. "And when I finally got out, the first run was to that same area. I can't move in the house. I don't walk with urgency. We've had two or three wrecks at the same scene. I got the engine out and I couldn't get out at the truck."
Katrina also expressed frustration at the pace of the court proceedings.
"We forgave Colby, and as a Christian, I have to forgive him every day of my life," said Katrina, who said even though Kendall was 27 when he was tragically killed, she harbors feelings of guilt about not being there when Kendall needed her. "It's been 635 days today. That's a lot of time for me to process, and I'm still looking for answers. There have been a lot of sleepless nights, and I can't process it all and why it has taken this long. If it would have been someone we didn't know, I could maybe understand it little bit."
Katrina said had the shoe been on the other foot, she would have encouraged her own children to go above and beyond to show how sorry they were.
"I feel like he could have reached out," she said, stressing their family will never be the same.
Things won't be the same for Padgett, who also addressed the crowded courtroom.
Padgett said after losing Murphy, it took her months to get out of the house.
"I was afraid I'd run into Colby. I just wanted to stay in my room and if I wasn't there, I was at the cemetery," she said. "In my head, I had to go see Kendall every day."
She's getting out more now, but Padgett said there are days that are still difficult for her.
"July was really rough for me," she said, adding she's unsure if she will ever recover from the loss of the love of her life. "That's when Kendall asked me to be his girlfriend and asked me to be his wife."
Kelsie Miller, Kendall's sister, also spoke at the sentencing and read the victims impact statement.
Miller has three children and one of those will never get the chance to meet their uncle.
"The two oldest are 5 and 6," said Miller. "I don't allow them to just say sorry and walk away. There are consequences for accidents, but in my head, I'm wondering if there really are. No number of years (served) changes the outcome here."
Represented by Attorney Mark Phillips, Blake also addressed the court and had a handful of individuals speak on his behalf.
Roman Wagler, manager of Hillcrest Supply and Hillcrest Supply owner, Richard Knepp, both spoke highly of Blake.
"Colby does just about anything we would ask of him," said Wagler, who said after the accident, Blake seemed to have a gentler demeanor. "There was a difference in him and it was all good."
Knepp called Blake "a joy to work with."
"He's a good employee and my son's best friend," said Knepp, who said the whole situation has been difficult because he also knows the Murphy family. "It's been hard. It's hard on all of us, but he has got to move on."
According to a probable cause affidavit submitted by Indiana State Police Detective Josh Greer, on Nov. 10, 2017, Blake was operating a 2006 Dodge Ram west of the intersection of Old U.S. 50 and CR 800 E. Greer reports Blake was responding as a volunteer firefighter when he failed to reduce his speed as he approached the crash scene and struck the rear driver side of a parked vehicle belonging to Murphy.
Also speaking on behalf of Blake was Amy Kaho, who was his supervisor at Martin County EMS and Cameron Gladish, campus minister at Redemption Church in Loogootee, where Blake attended.
"I've spent quite a bit of time with Colby," said Kaho, who also called him a good and compassionate employee. "I would like to see him talk with others and teach others to not do this. I love Colby like he's one of my own. Like family. I want to see him move forward and be productive."
Blake told the court his heart was broken and he was sorry for his actions.
"My heart really is broken. I don't know how many times you can say you're sorry and it doesn't mean anything. I can't even think of the possibility of doing it again," said Blake. "If I could take it back, I would, but I can't, and I am truly sorry. It's something I have to live with every day as well as you guys do."
While incarcerated at the Daviess County Security Center, Blake said he completed phase one of the RARE program and as well as attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Since his release in December of 2017, he has been serving on Community Corrections home detention. He's been meeting with his corrections officer twice a month and has been subjected to breath tests twice per day.
"I believe in the justice system and owning your actions and serving the time," he said. "Whatever that is going to be, I'll do what I have to do."
Blake has given credit for 31 days served as well as time served for the 579 days he has been in Community Corrections. He was taken into custody by the Daviess County Sheriff's Department at the completion of the sentencing.