By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A man who crashed his car, killing his 20-year-old girlfriend, was sentenced Thursday to 52 months in prison.

A jury found Michael Campbell guilty last month of vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.

Friends of the 21-year-old say he was drunk the night of the crash last September.

Ria Patel, a junior at St. Thomas University, died from her injuries.

In court, Campbell tried to blame it on Patel, telling the jury she grabbed his face while he was driving and gave him a kiss. He also told investigators he ran from the scene after being “traumatized” by the sight of Patel’s injuries. In court Thursday, Campbell gave a statement, saying he takes full responsibility for the crash that killed his then-girlfriend, then apologized to family and friends through tears.

“I wish more than anything I could take back that tragic morning and be holding Ria in my arms today,” he told the court in a prepared statement. “I take full responsibility for the car accident that kileld Ria on the morning of Sept. 17. I was the one driving the vehicle, and when Ria kissed me, I did take my eyes off the road to kiss her back. I did leave the scene of the accident, and I can’t even begin to explain how guilty I feel for everything.”

Before the sentencing Thursday, the court saw a video montage of pictures of Patel. Campbell could be seen crying as it ended.

Two of Patel’s cousins and her uncle gave emotional impact statements – one illustrating the horror of having to identify Patel’s body. Standing alongside Patel’s parents — who were in the Twin Cities for the first time — her uncle said they felt justice has been served, though they said Campbell’s apology was too little, too late.

Ria Patel (credit: University of St. Thomas)

“Had he come out initially and apologized, and owned up to his actions, it would have lessened the pain,” Ria’s uncle Hitesh Patel said. “But over the last six months, all we’ve heard is just lies and blame. Even during the court trial, there was no ownership or acceptance of what he did.”

Hitesh Patel went on to say that his niece will be remembered as someone who wanted to spread happiness, and be an inspiration for children.

Campbell was on the run for two days after the crash before being arrested in Wright County.

Campbell has five driving-related convictions on his record. He was recently on probation for leaving the scene of a hit-and-run in January. He also has convictions for careless driving and having marijuana in his car.

The maximum recommended sentence for Campbell’s crime would be four years, but prosecutors planned to ask the judge to give him even more time behind bars.

Patel’s family created The Ria Foundation in her honor. Donations will go to raising awareness about drunk and distracted driving. They’ve partnered with the public safety department to get the message out.

Jeff Wagner

Comments (2)
  1. Very sad. This person seems to have an excessive number of problems related to driving a vehicle.

  2. 4 years really means 2.5 years, he will be back out doing it again real soon. What a joke. Why is this person not given 25 years, no early release?