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Driver in fatal drag race sentenced to up to 7 years; joked about crash online

Kody Schroeder was drag racing in Colden on April 12 when he crashed into a pick-up truck, killing one of his passengers and seriously injuring another passenger.

He eventually pleaded guilty, but remained free on $50,000 bond while waiting to be sentenced.

But while free, he boasted on social media about racing and joked about wrecking his car. Those messages, deliberately or not, tormented the families of the man who died in the crash and the young woman who was critically injured.

Freedom came to an end for Schroeder Wednesday morning.

Justice Penny M. Wolfgang ordered that he spend up to seven years in prison for manslaughter and vehicular homicide for the death of Chauncey Kloiber, 28, and the same for first degree assault for the injuries that Tabitha Trautwein, 20, suffered. The terms will run concurrently.

The woman Schroeder was racing, Mercedes Castillo, 18, of Holland was sentenced to six months in jail followed by five years probation for her plea to criminally negligent homicide and assault in the third degree.

Kloiber’s brother David Kloiber spoke briefly before the sentencing, telling the judge that his family’s suffering would last forever. He acknowledged that he also has made mistakes when he was young.

“But my mistakes didn’t result in anyone’s death,” he said.

A different kind of suffering continues for Tabitha Trautwein and her family. She Schroeder’s girlfriend and was riding in the front seat of his car during the race. She suffered traumatic brain injuries in the crash and nearly died, according to her mother.

Tammy Trautwein described the medical interventions that kept her daughter’s body functioning, noting a neurologist said her recovery would be long and winding.

“She is getting better. It’s just really slow,” Tammy Trautwein said.

She left her job to help care for her daughter, who remains in a rehabilitation facility, still unable to use all her limbs, still learning to talk again, and still in pain whenever she is touched.

“I wonder what the future is going to be for Tabitha. Will she ever be in a relationship again? Will she have kids? Will she ever be able to walk again?” her mother asked.

Her husband is modifying their house to accommodate a wheelchair for when Tabitha is able to come home, she said.

She also told the judge how much her family had done for Schroeder before the crash, and how devastated she was by his behavior afterward. She said they let Schroeder stay in their house after his parents kicked him out, so he wouldn’t have to live in his car. She made sure he got his GED and wrote a resume for him, helping him to get jobs that he always wound up quitting.

And she told of making the mistake of looking at Schroeder’s Facebook page, where he wrote after April 12 about his new girlfriend and laughed about totaling his Civic.

Trautwein was stunned.

“It was a fatal accident,” she said, choking up.

After the crash, Schroeder also posted many references to his love of racing, saying that if he died while racing, it would be with a smile on his face, Assistant District Attorney Kelley A. Omel told the judge.

Defense attorney Joseph Agro agreed with the characterizations that Schroeder is immature.

“He is. He’s 20 years old,” Agro said. “He pled guilty to the highest charge. He said he did it, and he accepts responsibility. He’s learned from it, and he’s going to learn more as the years go on.”

The case of Mercedes Castillo was different. She had not been using drugs, her attorney Michael T. Dwan pointed out. And he noted that Kloiber, her boyfriend, was riding with Schroeder because Castillo she didn’t allow anyone to smoke in her car that.

“She lost someone she loved. She’s been ostracized by an entire community. She has no family support to fall back on,” Dwan also said.

Castillo was in tears when she told the judge, “I would like to say I’m sorry, not because I am afraid of what’s going to happen today but because I’m truly, truly sorry. When I agreed to race, it was the worst mistake of my life.”

After she serves her six months local jail time, Castillo will spend five years on probation. She can have no contact with either victim’s family, her driver’s license is revoked and she was ordered to do 50 hours of community service.

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