Royer pleads guilty to double homicide
The Mukwonago man involved in a crash that killed two people east of Waupaca nearly three years ago was convicted Thursday, Sept. 19.
Christopher L. Royer, 24, entered guilty pleas to two counts of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle.
He was accused of killing a 75-year-old Waupaca man, Milton “Red” Barnhart, and Danielle Belanger, 21, Oshkosh.
Royer was also convicted of a third felony count of causing injury with a dangerous weapon and misdemeanor counts of possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Royer is scheduled for sentencing before Judge John Hoffmann on Nov. 21.
He faces a maximum of five years in prison and five years of extended supervision on each of the negligent homicide convictions.
Because Royer was previously convicted of misdemeanor offenses, including theft, disorderly conduct and resisting an officer, he faces an additional two years in prison as a repeat offender.
Wild ride ends in death
Shortly after 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, Deputy Nick Traeger and Detective Sgt. John Mocadlo, of the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office, were dispatched to a crash scene on State Highway 54 in Royalton.
When they arrived, the officers found a severely damaged Chevy Astro van facing east in the middle of the road. Photos of the wreck show the front wheel on the driver’s side was pushed all the way under the front seat.
Barnhart was severely injured and trapped inside the van. After firefighters extricated Barnhart from the vehicle, he was taken by ambulance to New London Family Medical Center and then to Appleton Medical Center.
Barnhart suffered blunt trauma to his abdomen during the crash and never recovered from his injuries. He died on Nov. 14, 2010.
At the scene, a gray Chevy Monte Carlo was in the north ditch. Traeger found Royer in the driver’s seat, calling for help. The deputy shattered the driver’s side window, and Royer was able to crawl out.
Belanger was trapped in the front passenger seat of the Monte Carlo. She was pulled from the car and then taken by ambulance to Riverside Medical Center, where Dr. Stephen Hubbard tried unsuccessfully to save her.
Hubbard continued working to resuscitate Belanger as he rode with her in an ambulance from Waupaca to the trauma unit at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah. She was pronounced dead at 6:37 p.m. the day of the crash.
Jose F. Ortegon, then 21, Oshkosh, was a backseat passenger in Royer’s car. He was taken first to RMC and then to Theda Clark, where he was treated for a broken leg.
According to the criminal complaint, Ortegon told Traeger that he, Royer and Belanger left Wautoma for Waupaca after stopping to buy a six pack of 18-ounce beer for the two men and one 24-ounce can of light beer for Belanger.
En route from Wautoma to Waupaca, Royer “was driving very recklessly, taking corners very fast so as to drift and going fast on the hills to make their stomachs drop,” the complaint says.
Ortegon said all three of them were smoking marijuana from Royer’s pipe and drinking as they drove to Waupaca.
While in Waupaca, the three went to Schueller’s Great Exspechtations on Royalton Street. Ortegon told investigators he bought Royer and Belanger a shot of tequila and bought Royer two double shots of Jack Daniels and Coke, the complaint says.
The three smoked more marijuana after they left the bar and headed east on State 54. Royer “peeled out of the parking lot, squealing the tires and causing the car to fishtail, in front of a semi truck,” the complaint says.
Before he died, Barnhart told investigators the Monte Carlo was in his lane and coming so fast he did not have time to avoid it.
Royer was initially charged with two counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and two counts of homicide with a vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance. The original charges carried more than twice the prison terms than the amended sentences to which he pleaded guilty.