Man with 12 prior DUI convictions sentenced in crash that killed 12-year-old girl

Charles Cahill Jr. had 12 prior drunken driving convictions

DETROIT – Charles Cahill Jr. was sentenced Tuesday after he was convicted of driving drunk and killing a 12-year-old girl over the summer in Sumpter Township. 

The 49-year-old man with 12 previous drunken-driving convictions was sentenced to at least 27 years in prison. He was charged with second-degree murder, operating with a high blood-alcohol content causing death, operating with a suspended license causing death and a misdemeanor count of open alcohol container in a vehicle.

Cahill took responsibility during a court hearing Tuesday and repeatedly wept as Victoria Mack's family spoke to the judge. He says he can't forgive himself and wishes he had been killed in the crash, not the girl.

Sumpter Township police say Cahill crashed into the rear-end of a minivan at a high rate of speed July 27 and critically injured 12-year-old Victoria Mack. She died after three days on life support.

Read back: Charges amended for suspected drunken driver in Sumpter Twp. after 12-year-old girl dies

Cahill has 12 previous drunken-driving convictions dating back to 1986. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing and was bound over for trial before 34th District Court Judge Brian Oakly. A jury found him guilty in November. 

Cahill has been lodged at the Wayne County Jail with no bond. He is scheduled to appear at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit at 9 a.m. Tuesday for his sentencing. 

Cahill will be eligible for parole after 27 years. His maximum stay in prison is 50 years.

What happened

According to police, Cahill was traveling northbound on Martinsville Road in Sumpter Township at a high rate of speed at about 8 p.m. July 27 when he rear-ended a minivan carrying five passengers. Victoria was in the third-row seat of the van. She was critically injured in the crash.

Two other children, ages 2 and 3, were also in the vehicle.

Sumpter Township Fire Department crews cut her from the seat and freed her from the wreckage. She was flown to Mott Children’s Hospital and was placed on life support.

Police said Cahill’s blood-alcohol content was almost three times the legal limit at the time of the crash.

Cahill was originally charged with operating while intoxicated causing serious injury.  Victoria died three days later and charges against Cahill were amended.

12 previous drunken-driving convictions

Further investigations showed Cahill had 12 previous drunken-driving convictions.

“We’ve all seen the three, or four, or five, and you have a hard time believing that somebody can get that many and still be out driving around,” Sumpter Township police Chief Eric Luke said. “But 12 priors, I just don’t understand it.”

Police said Cahill’s license has been revoked by the Secretary of State’s Office since 1990.

Cahill’s drunken driving convictions date back to 1986 with arrests in Westland, Plymouth and Detroit.

“The past 20 years or so, society’s been lucky when it comes to this individual,” Luke said a week after the crash. “Unfortunately, last Wednesday at 8:20 at night, our luck ran out.”

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About the Authors:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.