by RANDY R. COTTON
A sentencing hearing in the case of People vs. Todd Michael Benoit took place Thursday, April 22 in a courtroom filled with emotion and tears in the 61st District Court of Grand Rapids before Judge Dennis Lieber.
According to Kent County court records, the 36-year-old Rockford resident was charged with one count of operating while intoxicated (OWI) last December in the 63rd District Court and was released on a personal recognizance bond of $50,000.
A fatal accident occurred at about 10:25 p.m. on Saturday, October 3, 2009, when Benoit was driving a red jeep northbound on White Creek Avenue before pulling into the path of a westbound pickup that had a flashing yellow light, according to Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent.
Derrick Mitchell “Ricky” Holstege of Wyoming, who was Benoit’s 19-year-old biological son, later died at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids.
Holstege was a 2008 graduate of Covenant Christian High School and had plans to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. He also liked to sing and was a member of the Calvin College Oratory Society.
The driver of the other vehicle, a 33-year-old Howard City man, was not injured.
An agreement between the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office and Benoit’s defense team was reached when Benoit agreed to plead guilty to the 15-year felony.
Paul McDonagh, the Grand Rapids-area defense attorney who represented Benoit, approached the podium and argued, “I have reviewed the pre-sentencing report and current psychological report from the Department of Corrections and have no additions or deletions. I recommend that my client continue to receive Hope Network services to help highlight some of the stressors that Todd has faced throughout this horrible tragedy and that he continue some form of mental health services.”
Leonard Holstege, the stepfather of the deceased, told the court during a crime victimization and impact statement, “I want to thank the court for giving us the opportunity to describe the impact this has had on two families.”
As he sat in the witness stand, Holstege told the court, “Todd was not there to give encouragement when Ricky was sad. He was not there when Ricky did not make the basketball team.”
According to Holstege, “October third was a good day for me and Ricky. We watched the Michigan-Michigan State football game together. That was the last I saw of him. At 1:30 in the morning we received a call that Ricky had been in an accident and is at Butterworth Hospital. We had to put aside all of this and make funeral arrangements. We wonder where Todd was throughout all of this. We are very sorry to all of the families and to all of the people to the extent that this happened and only ask that Todd be responsible for all of this so that we can have some closure.”
Benoit was ordered to spend a minimum of 72 months and a maximum of 180 months in the Michigan Department of Corrections, and was ordered to pay crime victimization and court costs of $60 each and funeral costs of about $5,000. He was also ordered to have no further contacts with his son’s mother and adoptive father.
According to the Michigan Secretary of State, Benoit had previous convictions including unlawful blood alcohol content and use of marijuana.
No further media interviews were given during the sentencing hearing.