Drunk driver who killed aspiring doctor could serve less than 2 years in prison

The drunk driver who killed an aspiring doctor and University of Minnesota researcher could serve less than two years behind bars.

Kenneth Spencer was sentenced Thursday to 42 months for the deadly drunk driving crash in the early morning hours of November 18, 2022. Spencer admitted he was drunk and driving without a valid license at the time of the crash.

Spencer will serve 28 months behind bars and the remaining with credit for time served in jail, Spencer will spend less than two years in prison.

Spencer crashed into a silver Nissan Sentra on University Avenue at I-35W in Minneapolis. He killed Ebony Miller, a 24-year-old Bahamas native who dreamed of becoming a doctor. Before her death, she was a research scientist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

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Miller was returning home from a second job when she was struck and killed.

Traffic cameras showed Spencer running a red light going about 75 miles per hour on the city street. Blood tests put his blood-alcohol levels at twice the legal limit. Spencer wasn't supposed to be driving; he was without a license because of a previous impaired driving conviction less than a year earlier.

In court on Thursday, Miller's family spoke of her sky-high potential and the tremendous pain the family faced from the loss.

"I sent my child away for an education, and now she's home in a box, ashes… because of selfish, inconsiderate actions of one individual, a habitual offender," Ebony's father Kermit Miller told the court. "There's no forgiveness for me because it was a choice he made to drive drunk, under the influence. That was a choice."

Kermit Miller asked the court to give Spencer the maximum penalty.

"He not only took away my daughter, he took away my lineage, my bloodline," Kermit added. "He took away my life investment. He took away me… What he did was preventable and misfortune. Sentence him to the maximum and then some for what he did."

Ebony's boyfriend, however, left it up to the judge to decide what would be a better path to rehabilitate Spencer.

For his part, Spencer was remorseful, apologizing to the family.

"It hurts me every time I think about it," said Spencer, reading from an apology letter he wrote the family. "I know Ms. Miller had goals to complete, she seemed like a great human. I wish I could trade places with her every day. I should be gone, not Ms. Miller."

Spencer spoke of his substance abuse issues while speaking to the court. In her sentence, Judge Lisa Janzen denied the defense's request for a downward departure that would have allowed Spencer to serve probation. Janzen cited Spencer's past criminal record in that decision.

However, Judge Janzen accepted that Spencer had shown remorse and accepted responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty and saving the family a trial. The judge also showed empathy for Spencer's addiction issues but said that was no excuse for his actions.