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Belleville man gets probation in drunk driving crash that killed SLU professor

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Christopher Seals. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

BELLEVILLE, IL (KTVI) – A 35-year-old Belleville man was sentenced Friday for his role in a drunk driving crash that claimed the life of a St. Louis University professor.

According to our news partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the accident happened about 8:30 a.m. on April 27, 2016 at the Vandeventer exit ramp from westbound Interstate 44.

Christopher Seals rear-ended Donnie Patten’s stopped car on a rainy morning. Investigators said Patten stopped on the ramp after colliding with another vehicle when he was struck by Seals’ pickup truck.

Patten, 48, was killed in the accident. Seals’ blood-alcohol level at the time of the accident tested at 0.131. The legal limit is 0.08.

Seals’ defense attorney argued brake failure led to the fatal crash.

Seals was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter, but a grand jury reduced the charge to excessive blood-alcohol content due to the weather conditions and the brakes on Seals’ truck. He later pleaded guilty to that charge.

A judge sentenced Seals to two years probation, electronic alcohol monitoring, as well as alcohol treatment and 100 hours of community service.

In court Friday, Patten’s widow, Sherri, said she had forgiven Seals and hoped he would someday “do something great for others in similar situations.”

The report in the Post-Dispatch also said Sherri Patten and her two children had filed a wrongful-death suit against Seals and his employer, claiming Seals was on the job at the time of the crash.