No matter how many years Robert Mahler ultimately spends in prison, Steve Oberg said, his son, Chris, still will be gone.
Oberg just wanted the peace of mind in knowing that Mahler will never again be able to get into a vehicle after drinking and shatter the lives of other families.
“We hope nobody will ever go through what we did at the hands of Robert Mahler,” Oberg said Monday after watching the Hubbard, Neb., man get sentenced to a minimum of 51 years in prison for two counts of motor vehicle homicide and driving under the influence — second offense.
Mahler, 55, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.196 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent, when his vehicle crossed the center line and collided head-on with Chris Oberg’s motorcycle on Sept. 9 near Emerson, Neb., killing Oberg, 20, of Mapleton, Iowa, and his passenger and girlfriend, Alexis Calfee, 19, of Bennet, Neb.
“I want to say I’m sorry to both families,” Mahler said softly before being sentenced. “I wish this had never happened.”
He wasn’t the only one, as evidenced by the number of family members and friends who filled the Dixon County District Courtroom to overflowing. Doors to the courtroom were left open so spectators in a waiting area outside could view the proceedings.
Mahler’s DUI conviction was his second in Nebraska, and seventh overall. He had gotten released from probation from his sixth DUI conviction 35 days before the accident involving Oberg and Calfee, whose mother asked District Judge Paul Vaughan for a prison sentence long enough to ensure Mahler never had another chance to drink and drive.
“You can not make our family whole again … you can not take away the day-to-day pain from my heart,” Jaimi Calfee said. “You can bring justice for every drunken decision Robert Mahler ever made.”
In deciding upon a prison sentence, Vaughan said he considered Mahler’s several past convictions and the fact he obviously never took advantage of the many chances they offered to get help for his drinking problem.
“In your own words, two lives were ended because of your stupidity,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan sentenced Mahler to 25-40 years in prison for each motor vehicle homicide charge and the maximum one year on the DUI charge and ordered the sentences to be served consecutively, or back-to-back, for a total of 51 years. Mahler could eligible for release in 25.5 years pending good behavior and other credits earned while in prison.
Todd Calfee, Alexis’ father, said Mahler’s sentencing closes just one painful chapter for his family. He said he hoped the sentence would make others think twice before drinking and driving.
“Whether it’s 51 years or 500 years, that’s not going to bring Lexi back,” Calfee said. “I think it’s a wake-up call to people that judges are going to take this seriously. Drunken driving is 100 percent preventable.”