Suspect sentenced to life in prison for lineman deaths after Hurricane Michael

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CHIPLEY, Fla. (WMBB) — A man who killed three linemen working to restore power after Hurricane Michael now knows his fate.

Linemen Ryan Barrett, George Cesil and James “Bo” Ussery all lost their lives when 38-year-old John Goedtke hit the three men while driving his vehicle under the influence. 

Goedtke was sentenced to life in prison on Monday, on three counts of DUI manslaughter, one count of leaving the scene of a crash involving death and one count of driving while license suspended or revoked. 

“It is clear to me that your actions have had a tragic and devastating effect on the lives of many people,” said Circuit Judge Hon. Tim Register. 

Goedtke plead no contest last week, avoiding a trial. He admitted he was driving north down State 77 in Washington County at a high rate of speed when the accident happened.

He said he swerved into the southbound lane, drove into a ditch and onto the shoulder, hitting and killing the three men. 

During his sentencing, Goedtke had a statement read aloud, that he wrote for the judge and the three families.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions that have led to this awful event,” Goedtke said. “I hope nobody has to go through this pain and suffering ever again.”

Many family members of the three men came to his sentencing on Monday, making powerful testimonies to the judge. 

“The heartache, the affliction, the anguish, the grief, the sorrow, the agony and pain will torment me for the rest of my life,” said family member Robert Cesil.  

Goedtke will be housed in a facility south of Orlando to be closer to his son and sister.

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