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Burnside: 'I am responsible for what happened'

Former Lutheran bishop sentenced to 10 years in prison

Burnside: 'I am responsible for what happened'

MADISON, Wis. - The former Lutheran bishop charged in a deadly hit-and-run drunken-driving crash was sentenced to 10 years in prison with 5 years of extended supervision in Dane County Court on Thursday.

Bruce Burnside, 60, pleaded guilty to two of the charges against him in May, including felony second-degree reckless homicide. He was originally charged with four felonies, including homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

Prosecutors said Burnside hit and killed Maureen Mengelt from Sun Prairie while she was out for an afternoon jog in April 2012. Prosecutors asked for an eight-year prison sentence for Burnside.

Burnside spoke at sentencing taking responsibility for the crash.

"I am responsible for what happened. No one else," he said. "I have never been so sorry. Sorry is such an insufficient word for this kind of guilt."

"I was never trying to flee or run, I only wanted to get out of the way of oncoming traffic, but I also realize your intentions and your actions are not the same thing," he said.

Burnside said after his wife died a few years ago he struggled with his sexuality, and admitted that inattention, cellphone use, the radio, alcohol, preoccupation with details of a church service and reaching for a misplaced GPS contributed to the crash.

"I do daily return to that everlasting split second," Burnside said. "I will be a prisoner of that. I will be another kind of prisoner in a cell as well."

Maureen Mengelt's husband, Kevin Mengelt, told News 3 he had hoped the case would go to trial after a year of proceedings, or that the plea deal would have been to a charge of homicide by hit-and-run.

After the sentencing Kevin Mengelt said he had been concerned about Burnside not getting enough time for his crime. However, he is satisfied with the sentence and the thought put into it.

"I feel much better. I mean, I was so worried for so long. It's been almost 16 months since he killed Maureen," Mengelt told reporters outside of the courthouse. "I think I can put this behind us now and just go on with our lives. I've spent too much time preparing for this day, and now I can focus on what's really important, which is my family."

During Thursday's sentencing hearing, Mengelt's son, Andrew, broke down on the stand talking about the things his mother wasn't able to be there for, like his graduation.

"She was a remarkable person," he said. "The best way to describe her is just one of those people who is just special."

Mengelt's other daughter, Megan, said her mother was her best friend. She said that she was training with her mom when she was killed and now feels like she can no longer run.

"Why would a supposed man of the cloth commit such a horrible act, and even worse, deny every bit of it? But I won't accept it. He's had one and a half years to do just that. He's not a true man and not a true man of God."

Mengelt's husband, Kevin, said Maureen was the center of his family's household. "I've spent a year making up for her loss, and I feel I've always come up short," he said.

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