NORMAN, Okla. – After a year in prison, the man who pleaded guilty to killing a woman and injuring another while driving drunk is now free.
Conner Ottis, 24, was sentenced to seven years in prison for first-degree manslaughter and driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol resulting in great bodily injury for the death of Starla Garcia and the serious injury of Dalana Tyler. On Wednesday, Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley suspended the the remaining six years of the sentence.
In March 2015, 42-year-old Garcia was driving with her cousin, Tyler, on I-35 when Ottis, driving the wrong direction, slammed into them head-on. According to court documents, his blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit.
“I can’t even fathom that it’s going to be three years that my mom’s been dead,” Garcia’s daughter, Renee, said Wednesday after court. “My mom was my best friend.”
Now, just shy of a year after he stepped into jail, Ottis is walking free.
The judge said she made her decision last year during sentencing, telling Ottis if he accomplished conditions of his jail time, including the completion of training programs, he would receive a suspended sentence.
Ottis declined to comment after he was released.
His defense attorney, John Coyle III, said Ottis has become an advocate against drinking and driving.
“Working with people that have been accused of DUI,” Coyle said. “He’s spoken to them and told his story and he’s done it over 50 times.”
On Wednesday, the courtroom was filled with Ottis’ family and friends.
“It was just overwhelming seeing all of them happy, and hugging, and smiling,” Renee said.
Garcia’s daughter said this shouldn’t have been a moment for celebration, not in the face of those mourning the woman Ottis killed.
“I’m hoping that deep down inside of him, he knows he should have spent longer,” Renee said.
She said she doesn’t feel a year in prison begins to make up for what he took from her family.
“My mom would have already forgiven him,” Renee said, “but she was very firm with me and my brother, I mean, she made sure that if we made a mistake we would have consequences. He did what he did, he killed someone with his vehicle, and today he gets to walk out."
Ottis’ suspended sentence has conditions that include more than 2,000 hours of community service, one for everyday of his sentence. He’ll also be required to donate $5,000 to the Boys and Girls Club in Garcia’s name, and spend his birthday, August 30th, Garcia’s birthday, July 19th, and Tyler’s birthday, April 27th, in jail for the next six years.