By David Hendee
OMAHA, Neb (Reuters) - A 22-year-old former University of Nebraska-Lincoln honor student was sentenced Thursday to 50 years in prison for killing four motorcyclists on Interstate 29 in western Iowa last summer.
Andrew Schlichtemeier was drunk when his pickup truck veered into the four oncoming riders last August.
Each count carried a penalty of 25 years in prison. In a plea deal, Schlichtemeier will serve 50 years -- two consecutive 25-year sentences and two more 25-year sentences to be served at the same time. He could be paroled in 10 to 20 years, according to legal experts.
Schlichtemeier expressed remorse before the sentence was announced by Harrison County District Judge Jeffrey Larson in Logan, Iowa. He said he would serve his time "with dignity in tribute to the victims."
Larson told Schlichtemeier that he had a bright future.
"You have ruined that by your willingness to drink and drive," he said. "The sentence needs to send a message, not just to you but to anyone who thinks it's not a big deal to get behind the wheel after drinking."
Schlichtemeier's blood-alcohol level measured .373 percent -- more than four times the legal limit -- when his truck slammed into the motorcyclists August 9 in a construction area near Little Sioux, north of Council Bluffs, according to the Iowa State Patrol.
The victims were Jay Bock of Nebraska and Steven Benscoter, Dale Aspedon and Dennis Chaney of Iowa. The four were returning home from the annual motorcycle rally at Sturgis, South Dakota.
(Writing and reporting by David Hendee; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)