PORT ORCHARD — The family of Michael Keaton, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver while taking his morning stroll on Sidney Road July 14, finally achieved some semblance of resolution Aug. 23 when Ali Rochelle Giannini was sentenced to three years in prison for her role in the patriarch’s death.
The standard sentencing range for the felony hit-and-run (death) charge is 31-41 months, with a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Giannini, 29, pleaded guilty in Kitsap County Superior Court for striking and killing Keaton just before 7 a.m. while he was in the midst of his usual morning exercise routine, supposedly a safe distance from traffic.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the accident scene, near Matrix Loop in South Kitsap, they found Keaton, 61, unresponsive on the side of the road. He was pronounced dead by authorities. Giannini later turned herself in for questioning and arraignment.
She told Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office investigators that she had fallen asleep just before her vehicle hit Keaton. Instead of stopping, Giannini drove on to a friend’s house in Pierce County. The friend called law enforcement when media reports detailed the hit-and-run incident.
Prior to the sentencing hearing, Giannini wrote a letter to Superior Court Judge Jennifer Forbes apologizing for her actions and emphasized that since the incident, she has been seeking help through Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous to rebuild her life. Giannini also sought sentencing leniency so she could better care for her three-month-old daughter.
A statement entered by the victim’s wife, Carolyn Keaton, however, described an ongoing “nightmare” for her and his family in the aftermath of the incident.
“Every night when I attempt to go to sleep, the nightmare repeats itself,” Carolyn Keaton wrote. “My eleven-year-old Granddaughter [name redacted] and I go searching for Mike who hasn’t made it home yet from his daily walk. We drive upon an accident scene. [Redacted name] is letting out the scariest shrill scream I’ve ever heard.”
Keaton’s widow wrote that she has “lost my best friend of 45 years. The love of my life! We were married 41 years.”
Keaton’s daughter Tawnie Ploe also wrote an emotional letter to the judge on how her father’s death has adversely affected the family: “My mom’s life, my sister’s life, my life and the lives of our husbands and children are forever changed,” Ploe wrote.
“We will forever be broken because of her [Giannini’s] selfish and reckless behavior. My children, my nieces and nephew have had their innocence ripped from them. There are things worse than the boogeyman and she is it. She has proven to our kids that monsters do exist.”
In an interview with the Independent a few days after the incident, Ploe said the family had been through a rollercoaster of emotions.
“We’ve been numb, we’ve been angry. But we were able to smile last night with the news that they [Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office] know who they’re looking for. We’re able to laugh and able to feel a little bit better that the police have done a fantastic job in trying to solve my dad’s murder.”