Mankato, MN – Mark Chalin was in court for sentencing earlier this month, facing two charges of criminal vehicular homicide of two women from an August 2011 car crash. The crash killed his girlfriend, 23-year-old Amber Menezes, and another driver, 35-year old Jonna Martin, an engaged mother of four.
Witnesses told investigators that Chalin, 24, had been driving wildly shortly before he struck Martin head on. Both vehicles were traveling along the Blue Earth County Road 90, near Hwy 169. Alcohol was not a factor. Allegedly Chalin and his girlfriend Menezes were engaged in sex, while Chalin was driving. He swerved into the opposing lane where Martin had begun to slow and pull off onto the shoulder.
Both Martin and Menezes died. Chalin suffered 26 broken bones, and was hospitalized for over a month. He didn’t immediately remember much of the events surrounding the accident.
During his conviction, Chalin entered an Alford (guilty) plea, meaning he denied guilt, but acknowledged there was enough evidence to convict him for being distracted behind the wheel. An Alford plea is used in criminal matters, allowing a defendant to plead guilty even while unable or unwilling to admit guilt. Acceptance of an Alford plea is in the court’s discretion.
Emotional appeals came from both sides in court. Friends and family of the victims, including Menezes’ estranged husband Chris, proposed that Chalin go to prison. Amber Menezes was married but separated from Chris Menezes at the time of her death. Chalin and Menezes had started living together a couple of weeks prior to the accident.
Chalin plead for leniency, begging as he wept, not to be sent to prison. He sobbed that he would trade his life for those who died in a heartbeat. “I’m so sorry for everything that happened. Don’t think I’m not feeling any pain.”
Judge Bradley Walker handed down a ruling of 50 months (~4 years) in accordance with the sentencing guidelines of the crimes. Chalin will likely get supervised release after about three years. The judge was keen to point out the number of lives that had been forever changed by the dramatic event. When Chalin was led away, Michelle Scholl, Menezes’ mother, fell to the floor, pounded it with both hands and said, “Nobody wins,” reported by Mankato Free Press.
Remorseful, Walker expressed:
“Nobody’s going to be happy today. It’s not my job to make people happy. It’s not a contest. I just hope everyone can walk out of this courtroom thinking about how someone’s life can change in an instant.”