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For the next two years, a 25-year-old Lincoln man will have to do 30 hours of community service the weeks of Rhondi Lovelace's birth and her death in a crash he caused when he ran a stop sign.

The 54-year-old Lincoln woman died July 13 when the pickup she was in was struck by Matthew D. Werner's pickup.

"I know nothing I say can ever take back what happened," Werner said tearfully during his sentencing hearing Friday. "But I just want you guys to know I'm truly, deeply sorry, and I regret what happened."

Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Ashley Bohnet said Werner, who last month pleaded no contest to motor vehicle homicide without a plea agreement, had taken accountability for his actions.

"But it was his careless action that caused the death of Ms. Lovelace. It was his failure to stop at a stop sign that caused her death," she said.

Lancaster County Sheriff's deputies said it happened as Werner drove south on Southwest 40th Street at West A Street and collided with a pickup heading west.

Lovelace died at the scene.

Bohnet asked, if the judge sentenced Werner to probation, that he include community service timed to Lovelace's birthday, Oct. 24, and the date of the crash, July 13.

"That way Mr. Werner is reminded of Ms. Lovelace, her family, her friends and the impact that his actions caused back on July 13, 2018," she said.

Deputy Lancaster County Public Defender Sarah Safarik said there is no sentence that could make the situation better.

She said Werner feels awful about the outcome of the accident, knows he needs to face the consequences and realizes that "many, many people's lives are forever changed because of this."

Before Lancaster County Judge Rodney Reuter gave Werner two years of probation and 120 hours of community service on the dates Bohnet suggested, he said he had no words of wisdom to offer.

"There is nothing good that has come from this incident at all. Period," he said. "Normally I will tell people that I love my job. I hate it right now."

Reuter said he couldn't overlook that Werner's blood-alcohol level was 0.026 percent when he ran the stop sign. The legal limit to drive is 0.08., but no one has any way of knowing if the crash would have happened if Werner had been stone-cold sober, he said.

"I'm giving you credit for the fact that you haven't avoided responsibility since this collision occurred," the judge said.

Werner also will have to serve 60 days in jail at the end of probation. Reuter said if probation goes well he may be allowed to do it on house arrest.

The maximum sentence on the misdemeanor is a year in jail.

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Reporter

Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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