During an emotional, three-hour hearing Tuesday, a Columbia Falls man convicted of vehicular homicide was sentenced to 30 years in the Montana State Prison with 20 suspended.
Matthew Michael Hollo, 24, was drunk when he drove head-on into another vehicle on the North Fork Road on June 6, 2015. The collision killed the driver of the other vehicle, 68-year-old Timothy R. Fangman, a doctor from Omaha, Nebraska.
Hollo was charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence in August 2015. He initially pleaded not guilty but changed his plea in January.
During the hearing before Judge Robert Allison, the court heard testimony from the victim’s brother-in-law and son. Both men said they did not feel “hatred” toward Hollo for what he had done but they wanted justice to be served. The brother-in-law, John Reins, also said he hoped Hollo confronted his alcoholism.
“Confront your demons and please never have another drink for the rest of your life,” Reins said.
Defense attorney Paul Ryan then guided the court through testimony from several of Hollo’s friends and family, painting a picture of a man with a bright future who made a tragic mistake. The court also learned that Hollo had a prior DUI conviction in 2013.
Hollo’s father, Hal Hollo, said that his son was a kind and caring person but grew distant in high school. He said that Matthew spent time with friends that Hal Hollo did not approve of and that that resulted in the 24-year-old’s struggles with alcohol. Hal Hollo said that following the crash, however, his son has changed greatly and that he believed the young man felt remorseful.
Tracy DeReu, the mother of Matthew Hollo’s fiancé, urged the court not to send the defendant to prison. During the testimony, DeReu talked about how her own brother was killed in a drunk-driving wreck and that she had hoped the defendant in that case had been rehabilitated instead of being sent to prison. She said the man who killed her brother in 1993 could have been helped, but instead came out of prison in a worse situation.
“It was a lose-lose situation,” she said. “I wish there had been a better ending for that tragedy.”
Lastly, Hollo’s fiancé, 18-year-old Mackenzie DeReu, spoke to the court about how last year’s fatal wreck has changed her future husband.
“Matthew is heartbroken by what happened and I see what it has done to him,” she said as she broke down on the stand. “I see how sad he is and I know that if he could take back what happened that day he would.”
Before attorney’s made their closing arguments, Hollo made a brief statement to the court, apologizing to the members of Fangman’s family who were in the room.
“I am truly sorry for all the pain that I have caused the friends and family of Timothy Fangman,” he said. “I take full responsibly for my choices on June 6 of last year.”
Following Hollo’s statement, prosecutors recommended a 30-year sentence to the Montana State Prison with 20 years suspended. The defense argued for a lesser sentence to the Department of Corrections, noting that Hollo could possibly share his story of drinking and driving with young people in hopes of helping them avoid his mistakes.
In the end, Judge Allison sided with the prosecution, sending Hollo to the Montana State Prison and forcing him to pay a $5,000 fine. Hollo will also have to undergo addiction treatment before being eligible for parole.
“You will have a chance to be with your family again, a chance Timothy Fangman will never have,” Allison said as he handed down the sentence.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.