Michael Drew Hardy sentenced to 20 years for murder of Jeremy Pryor

Published: Jul. 21, 2016 at 11:34 AM CDT
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Michael Drew Hardy woke up in his own home Thursday, but ended the day in shackles, beginning a 20 year prison sentence.

A Warren County jury found Michael Hardy guilty of wanton murder, 3 counts of wanton endangerment, criminal mischief, and DUI in the death of Jeremy Pryor in 2014.

The conviction is the first ever by way of jury trial in Warren County.

"It is a very rare thing for a DUI, vehicular homicide, to result in a murder conviction. To my knowledge this is the first wanton murder DUI conviction we've had in the history of Warren County from a jury," said Warren County Commonwealth Attorney Chris Cohron.

The defense for Michael Hardy presented their case Thursday morning in Warren Circuit Court.

Hardy, charged with the murder of Jeremy Pryor in a 2014 drunk driving crash, took the stand detailing a number of personal problems.

Hardy said he bought a house at age 19, but had to move back in with his parents after tearing it up. He also talked about having a mental breakdown after losing his job at Camping World on November 8, 2014, days before the deadly crash.

Hardy said on the stand that he hated himself, and he was the reason a life was taken.

He also had words about the victim, Jeremy Pryor.

"I think about Jeremy Pryor every day. I pray for him and his family every day."

Hardy said he didn’t remember anything about the night of the accident, saying his memory was black between the afternoon of November 21, 2014 and when he was told Pryor was dead while in the hospital.

A recording of that interaction was played to the court. After Hardy was told someone had died he said "No" in disbelief, then asked "So, what's this mean for me?"

Hardy told the court that he took Seroquel the day before the accident, and that it had been prescribed to him five days earlier. He admitted to drinking Fireball the afternoon of the crash, after initially claiming not to remember.

During his time on the stand, Hardy took a moment to speak to Jeremy Pryor’s family, stating “I’m extremely sorry. It was my doing, driving that night. If I could trade places with Jeremy that night and pass away myself… I know I can’t. I’m sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how you feel.”

The defense closed by asking the jury to return a verdict of Reckless Homicide if they thought Michael Drew Hardy was guilty at all.

Commonwealth Attorney Chris Cohron focused his closing argument by saying Michael Drew Hardy was a loaded gun in his SUV waiting to go off.

The jury deliberated for a little more than four hours before announcing they had reached a unanimous verdict.

Michael Drew Hardy sat emotionless as Judge Steve Wilson read a guilty verdict on all counts, the most serious being wanton murder.

Multiple supporters of Hardy had strong reactions standing behind him in the courtroom. One person even needed medical attention in the moments after the verdict was read. First responders were called to the Warren County Justice Center as a precaution.

Johnetta Pryor, the mother of Jeremy, hugged family and friends in a bittersweet moment. One of those people being her son, Joey.

"I most definitely hope the time that is spent, he's reflecting everyday. Because I mean we are, everyday," said Joey Pryor.

"Jeremy's not coming back. Drew Hardy will go to jail. He will get out. He'll have a family. We'll never have that. We'll never have any grandchildren. Joey will never have any nephews. I hope this teaches him a lesson," added Johnetta Pryor, minutes after the verdict was read.

Hardy apologized to Pryor's mother a second time during the sentencing phase Thursday night. Johnetta Pryor said she feels for Hardy's parents and family, but she felt the man now convicted of killing her son doesn't have enough remorse at this point.

"Jeremy doesn't leave my head. Jeremy doesn't leave my mind. Every song I hear, it doesn't sound the same. All the food I eat, it doesn't taste the same. I've just got to get adjusted back to some kind of normal life, with my son here, Joey."

Hardy had multiple people testify in the sentencing phase on his behalf, describing a young man who was active in school at South Warren High School. Family friends said after the accident, Hardy expressed a great deal of remorse to them and told them how he wanted to reach out to students in the community to help them not make the same mistake he did.

Those who testified for Hardy described the night of the crash as one bad decision a good person made.

Hardy had a short period of time to say goodbye to more than a dozen members of the group that showed him support during three of the toughest days of his life.

After the brief meeting with his attorneys and family Hardy was taken into custody to begin his 20 year sentence.

Due to the nature of the crime, Michael Drew Hardy will have to serve at least 17 years until he's eligible for parole.

Final formal sentencing is expected to take place in September.

Michael Drew Hardy was 20 years old at the time of the crash. He'll be 39 years old when he becomes eligible for parole.

 Hardy found guilty of murder