PEABODY — They were best friends who shared a love of cars, darts and having a good time.
Michael Fowler always drove, because his friend Daniel Walker didn’t have a license.
On the night of May 23 and into the early morning hours of May 24, Fowler, now 39, and Walker, 31, went to a darts tournament at the Swampscott VFW hall, then hopped from there to two other bars, the Moose Lodge in Salem and then the Courthouse Pub in Peabody, a prosecutor and a lawyer for the victim’s family said.
They consumed what the family’s lawyer described as “a waterfall” of alcohol.
By the time they were done, Fowler had a blood alcohol level of .24, more than three times the legal limit, as he drove his Hyundai down Walnut Street, a prosecutor said.
It doesn’t appear that Fowler even saw the flatbed tow truck parked illegally in front of 86 Walnut St., said prosecutor Susan Dolhun. He didn’t brake, didn’t swerve.
He crashed into the truck, and the impact decapitated Walker.
Fowler apologized today, moments before a Salem Superior Court judge announced his sentence of 2 1/2 to three years in state prison.
“I know what I did and I can’t change it,” said an emotional Fowler. “I’m sorry to the family, and, like, Daniel’s a good friend. I love him.
“I disappointed my wife,” said Fowler, whose son was born while he was in custody awaiting trial. “I killed my best friend. I freaked out. I saw things that were unbelievable. No one should ever have to see that.”
Prosecutors were seeking a six-to-eight year prison term for Fowler, who pleaded guilty today to charges of manslaughter, motor vehicle homicide while driving drunk and negligently, and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident with death resulting.