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Michigan man who drove into bicyclists, killing 5, sentenced

A Michigan man who plowed into a group of bicyclists, killing 5, has been sentenced to at least 40 years in prison. Charles Pickett Jr., of Battle Creek, had faced up to life in prison at his sentencing hearing Monday in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.

Pickett was convicted last month of five counts of second-degree murder.

The 52-year-old Pickett slammed into a pack of nine cyclists from behind on June 7, 2016, on a rural two-lane road in Cooper Township, about 140 miles west of Detroit.

Prosecutors have said Pickett was speeding and didn't apply his brakes until after he struck the first victim. Three women and two men were killed.

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Killed in the crash were Debra Bradley, 53, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, 42, Fred Nelson, 73, Lorenz Paulik, 74, and Suzanne Sippel, 56. The injured bicyclists were Paul Gobble, 47, Sheila Jeske, 53, Jennifer Johnson, 40, and Paul Runnels, 65. CBS affiliate WWMT

There was no dispute that he had swallowed painkillers and other drugs before driving, although his lawyers argued that murder charges were excessive. 

A woman who was with Pickett earlier that day said at his trial that he had attended a cousin's funeral and swallowed a handful of drugs.

Pamela Barletta said she told Pickett: "'That's real smart, Charlie.' ... Before I could say anything else he just drove away."

Defense attorney Keith Turpel said Pickett didn't know how the drugs would affect his driving.