Ronald E.Gale, who will turn 80 next week, changed his plea in Norfolk Superior Court to guilty Monday, and was sentenced by Judge Janet L. Sanders to a year of house arrest and 15 years probation, with no possibility of ever driving again.
Kathleen Davey said her three young children ask her why the man who killed their father isn’t going to jail. She told the solemn courtroom she doesn’t know how to answer that question.
“That’s where Mike would come in,” she said through tears at the sentencing of the 79-year-old man who hit and killed her police officer husband three months ago today.
Michael Davey, for five years a member of the Weymouth police department, was killed Aug. 24 as he directed traffic. Ronald Gale of Weymouth was charged with motor vehicle homicide in his death.
Gale, who will turn 80 next week, changed his plea to guilty Monday in Norfolk Superior Court and was sentenced by Judge Janet L. Sanders.
Sanders’ sentence: a year of house arrest and 15 years probation, with no possibility of ever driving again.
Gale faced a maximum sentence of 21/2 years in jail. Assistant District Attorney Debi Payton asked for 2 years of house arrest.
Gale, who said in court Monday that he takes about six medications for cardiovascular and other medical issues, will be able to attend doctor’s appointments. He lives in Weymouth with his wife of 57 years and has four grown children who live elsewhere.
Gale sat with his son and lawyer in the second row on the otherwise empty left side of the courtroom Monday. Across the aisle, unformed police officers, friends, family and Davey’s newborn niece spilled out of the five rows allotted to them.
His lawyer said that Gale, to this day, doesn’t know why he didn’t hit the brake of the car he was driving. He went through a stop sign on Front Street, near the Route 3 exit onto Route 18 in Weymouth, hitting and killing Davey.
Difficult day in court
As Davey’s parents, brother and wife read victim impact statements before sentencing, Gale, who appeared small and hunched over next to his lawyer, wept, hanging his head in his hands.
He tried to look up at a montage of photos showing Davey as a child, at his wedding, on vacation, but kept looking away.
“I can’t help but want the worst for him,” Kathleen Davey said, looking up at the ceiling, as if for strength from her husband.
The emotional proceedings were like a second funeral, as Davey’s mother, wife and brother described how their life has changed, from a family that was immeasurably lucky to one that is shattered.
“I’m hanging by a thread right now, and the most important person isn’t here to hold me up,” said Kathleen Davey, his wife. Her oldest son, James, 14, sobbed and pounded the wooden railing as his mother spoke.
Gale cannot put into words how remorseful he is, said William Sullivan, his lawyer. Sullivan told the court of how his client asked why he couldn’t have been the one killed when he was told Davey had died.
In her sentencing, Sanders acknowledged the profound tragedy in Davey’s death but said that punishment should not be determined based on the victim’s life.
“(Gale) will have to live the rest of his life with Michael Davey’s death on his conscience,” she said. “I cannot think of a punishment worse than that.”
Weymouth police Chief Richard Grimes said after the proceedings that Davey’s death is a reminder of the dangers officers face.
Reminder for police
“In the back of every police officers’ mind, there’s a chance of being killed in the line of duty,” Grimes said. “As far as the Weymouth police department is concerned, it’s no longer in the back of anybody’s mind.”
For the Davey family, their suffering takes the form of an empty chair at the dinner table on Thanksgiving, and every family event after that.
Kathleen Davey, who is learning how to be a single mother, goes to her husband’s grave every day, sometimes twice.
“I can’t kiss him so I have to kiss the cold ground where he is buried,” she said.
Davey’s mother, Deborah, said her grandson, 6-year-old Joseph, asks her to have another baby, a replacement for the father he lost.
His father, Ernest, who served more than 30 years with the Weymouth police department, can’t bear to put on the police uniform he once loved, his wife said.
All he can manage is a silver pin bearing “20,” the badge number he shared with his son. The family wore identical pins.
“The doctor calls this depression,” Deborah Davey said. “We call it hell on earth.”
Allison Manning may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.