A little more than four months after he veered out of his lane of traffic and killed a young couple on a Friday afternoon motorcycle ride in northeast Nebraska, a Hubbard man was sentenced to serve much of the rest of his life, if not all of it, in prison.
Robert Mahler, 55, whose blood alcohol content was more than two times the legal limit, was sentenced Monday in Dixon County District Court to 25 to 40 years in prison on each of the two counts of motor vehicle homicide to which he pleaded guilty in November. He also got one year for driving under the influence.
The sentences are to be served consecutively, meaning Mahler will not be eligible for parole until he is 81.
Alexis "Lexi" Calfee, 19, of Bennet and Christopher Oberg, 20, of Mapleton, Iowa, died in the Sept. 9 accident near Emerson.
On Monday, their families and friends from nearby Wayne State College, where the two attended school, filled the courtroom beyond capacity, Lexi's dad, Todd Calfee, said later by phone.
He said Mahler did not make eye contact with him or any members of the Calfee and Oberg families during the hearing, as had been the case during earlier court appearances. He did speak briefly, Calfee said.
"Real shortly, he did say he was sorry to the family."
Lexi's mom, Jaimi Calfee, one of several relatives who spoke at the sentencing, read a three-page autobiography her daughter wrote, as well as a five-page victim impact statement. She said she had to stop several times to regain her composure.
"It was really powerful, because I felt like Lexi was there, pushing me," she said after the sentencing.
She and her husband said they felt Dixon County District Judge Paul Vaughan sent a message to drunken drivers in Nebraska with the significant sentence.
"We're hoping he never sees the streets again so no family goes through what we're going through," Todd Calfee said.
Oberg and Calfee were westbound on his motorcycle at about 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9, heading back to Wayne after a trip to Sioux City, Iowa. Mahler was eastbound in a Pontiac Grand Am when he veered into Oberg's lane of traffic and hit the bike.
Authorities found beer bottles at the scene, and the Dixon County attorney's office later said Mahler's blood-alcohol content was measured at .196 percent after his arrest.
Todd Calfee said that although he was pleased with the sentence, there is more work to be done to prevent drunken driving deaths. He said he and his family would continue to raise awareness through "the alexis PROJECT," a nonprofit organization he created not only to celebrate the short lives of his daughter and her boyfriend, but to promote designated driving.
"This isn't going to stop," he said. "I'm going to keep going."