DAVENPORT, Iowa — The man convicted in the 2020 LeClaire boat crash that killed Craig Verbeke and Dr. Anita Pinc was sentenced to a year in jail on Wednesday, Aug. 3.
According to court documents from Wednesday's sentencing hearing, James Thiel Sr. was sentenced to 365 days in Scott County Jail for his role in the fatal boat crash. However, much of Thiel's one-year sentence was suspended, meaning that he will only have to serve 90 days of the sentence in jail.
Thiel was convicted of two counts of involuntary manslaughter in April for allowing his then-15-year-old son to drive and race his boat against another, before it crashed into Verbeke and Dr. Pinc's boat, killing the pair. Each count held a maximum two-year sentence.
Three of Verbeke's children spoke during the hearing as well as Dr. Pinc's father and daughter. All five mourn the memories they'll no longer make with their loved ones and the wedding the engaged couple never got to have.
"I still struggle to sleep at night knowing that I will never see my dad's bright smile or his contagious laugh again," Verbeke's daughter Rebekah McKissick said. "The pain of missing them will never get easier knowing the way that they were killed. And the pain and suffering that they endured make it all the more trying for my family and me."
"I couldn't get any more hugs and kisses from that casket lying in front of me when I walked in that funeral," Bob Casey said. "Nor could Craig say, 'My future dad, can I help you in any way?"
Thiel read a statement during the hearing and apologized to the victim's families.
"I want the families to know that I, my son and my family would never ever intend to cause harm to anyone, let alone the death of Anita and Craig," Thiel said. "I want you to know that we are extremely sorry for what happened and not a day will go by that we won't think about that August night on the river and wish that we had done something different to prevent the horrible tragedy."
Assistant Scott County State's Attorney Amy Devine requested District Court Judge Patrick McElyea sentence Thiel to time in jail and said he had not shown remorse or taken responsibility for the crash. Thiel's attorney Leon Spies disagreed and asked the judge for probation and community service.
Before he read the sentencing, the judge addressed the families of Verbeke and Pinc.
"I wish there were something that I could do from my position that would make this go away or make you all whole," McElyea said. "I can't do that, but I can do my best to fashion a sentence that I think will provide some accountability, provide some protection, provide some deterrence so that hopefully no other family is sitting here in the future having to be in your position."
Thiel was taken into custody immediately. However, 48 minutes after he was booked into the jail, he posted a $10,000 appeal bond and was released.
Additionally, Spies filed an appeal and asked the Supreme Court of Iowa to reverse the final judgment.