Man receives maximum sentence for fatal DUI crash

CAPE MAY COURTHOUSE, N.J. - November 12, 2010

John Lawless' driver's license had been suspended since 2001.

In a 13 year period, he had 7 DWI arrests and 4 convictions. He served a short period of time. Finally, on a night in September 2009, after drinking 12 beers, Lawless plowed into a vehicle on route 9 in Lower Township.

He killed 50-year-old Frederick Shelton. Shelton's wife Sheri was critically injured and his 13-year-old daughter Brittany was also hurt.

Lawless pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter and today, the court heard from the victim's family and friends

"John Lawless, you not only took our brother away from us, but you have destroyed many lives," Fred's brother Bruce Shelton said.

"Thinking about the future and knowing that my dad won't be involved in anything else I do hurts. Who's going to walk me down the aisle? Who are my children going to call Pop-Pop?" daughter Marissa said.

Pastor Scott Durbin said these words on behalf of Sheri Shelton, "I never imagined at the age of 45, I would be a widow raising three children on my own, my husband and I always talked about growing old together."

John Lawless' brothers told Judge Raymond Batten that John was a good man with a bad drinking problem. The 38-year-old Lawless from Northeast Philadelphia tearfully apologized to the Shelton family.

"I truly want to tell you I'm sorry. I can't ever ask for your forgiveness, cause I can't forgive myself, and I never meant for anybody to get hurt," Lawless said.

The judge said if ever there was a reason to impose the maximum penalty this case was it given Lawless' record. He must serve 85% of his sentence which will keep him behind bars for 25 and a half years.

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