GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Michigan teen was sentenced to up to 100 years in prison after beating a 64-year-old retiree to death in a church parking lot in what was called a road rage incident.
The defense team of Christian Hillman, 19, of the Grand Rapids suburb of Ada, Mich., called the Sept. 29 incident a tragedy Monday but said the teen was assaulted. Hillman's sentence: 22½ to 100 years on a charge of second-degree murder.
"I think just because someone gets angry in a road-rage incident, it doesn’t justify assaulting and killing a man,'' said Blair Lachman, Kent County assistant prosecutor. He argued that a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter was inappropriate because of eyewitness accounts that Hillman kicked William "Andy" McFarlan of Caledonia, Mich., several times after the man collapsed beside his pickup truck.
“I think if they came back with manslaughter, the excuse for people would be we can handle these situations violently," Lachman said. "It shouldn’t be that message."
McFarlan died nearly five weeks after the beating. He suffered several fractured ribs, broken facial bones and a fractured skull.
Emergency room doctors gave the General Motors retiree little chance of survival.
Hillman initially was charged with assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder, a 10-year felony. The charge was upgraded after McFarlan's death Oct. 31.
The then-18-year-old was riding a dirt bike after sunset, according to testimony. McFarlan was returning from a fishing trip.
McFarlan's pickup was traveling behind Hillman, and the driver began flashing his bright lights and sounding the horn.
Hillman pulled into a church parking lot in Alto, Mich. McFarlan followed, defense lawyer Michael Bartish said.
“Whatever happened, Mr. McFarlan is following Christian into that parking lot," Bartish told jurors in closing arguments last week. “There is no reason for that vehicle to have followed him into that parking lot unless the intent was for a fight."
Hillman previously said he defended himself when McFarlan grabbed his neck.
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