WILKES-BARRE – Robert Wickham is a functioning alcoholic, his wife Mary testified Friday.
But that doesn't mean he's not a good man and caring husband, she said of Wickham, convicted in September of causing a towing accident that left a 55-year-old woman dead.
He's not a bad guy, he just made a bad choice that day, Mary Wickham told Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr., before her husband was sentenced to four to eight years in state prison.
He faced a minimum of three to six years.
Wickham, 56, of Dallas, was convicted after a jury trial on charges including homicide by motor vehicle while driving under the influence in the March 2011 incident that left Denise Polinchak dead.
Prosecutors say Polinchak, of Wilkes-Barre, was having her vehicle towed from the area of the Social Security building on East Mountain Road because of brake problems.
Wickham was in the driver's seat of Polinchak's car with the door open when the vehicle accelerated.
The open door struck Polinchak, according to prosecutors, knocking her to the pavement. Polinchak died at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township later that day.
Prosecutors say Wickham drank three 24-ounce cans of beer before being dispatched by his former employer, Herbert's Towing, through AAA Mid-Atlantic to Polinchak's vehicle.
Wickham had a blood-alcohol content of .114 percent. An adult driver in Pennsylvania is considered intoxicated with a BAC of .08 percent.
I'm very, very sorry. I thought I did everything right that day, Wickham said before learning his prison sentence. I wish it never happened.
During Wickham's trial, his attorneys, Tom Marsilio and Larry Kansky, said the accident happened because Polinchak's car was defective. Polinchak's mother, Stephanie Remakus, spoke Friday of her caring and loving daughter, her personal taxi service, who was taken from her.
Polinchak's husband, Michael, spoke of the 35 years he and his wife were married, and said he has lost his life partner, heart and soul and his best friend.
I don't live anymore, I just exist because of you, Michael Polinchak told Wickham. Your intoxication, your carelessness … your recklessness … put you in a position that killed my wife.
Marsilio asked for leniency for his client, and that he be permitted to remain free on bail pending an appeal. Sklarosky denied that request and immediately remanded Wickham to the county prison.
Cars can't think for themselves, Sklarosky told Wickham. They do what their operator tells them. Your judgment was impaired because you were legally drunk. Your err(or) in judgment was catastrophic … with catastrophic consequences.