By Naya Lee
ILLINOIS— Stephanie Melgoza recently received her sentence after killing two people in a DUI crash last year. She received 14 years in prison which sparked much backlash from social media and the two victims’ families who claim that the sentence does not serve the victims justice. There is also speculation online about her lack of remorse after rumors of her getting pregnant and getting married spread on social media.
On Apr. 10, 2022, Stephanie Melgoza, a 24-year-old student at Bradley University, crashed and killed two people in a drunk driving incident coming back from a bar. The two victims include Andrea Rosewicz, 43, and Paul Prowant, 55. Although the incident happened a year ago, on Apr. 27, 2023, she received a sentence of 14 years in prison for two counts of aggravated DUI and two counts of reckless driving.
A video from the body camera of the police officer reveals what happened during her arrest and the aftermath of the crash. Viewers all over the nation and on social media were shocked to see Melgoza giggling and smiling after being arrested. When asked how fast she thought she was going, she stated, “at least 40, maybe 45” which is about 10 miles over the speed limit in that area. However, she also stated that she didn’t think she was recklessly driving and “tried to be precautionary.”
Melgoza told the officer that she was “just getting her night started” and if they “had her do a test, [I] think [I] would pass.” Despite her statements in the video, she was clearly intoxicated, and it was later reported that she failed all sobriety tests and tested three times over the legal limit of blood alcohol content. Officers also found an open bottle of vodka in her car and marijuana in her bag.
The clip of Melgoza’s behavior in the hospital after receiving news of the victims’ deaths received the most backlash on social media. At the hospital, she mentioned “not opening any snapchats when [I] get home” because of how busy she claimed to be. She also talked about her birthday trip to Vegas and how she would “start with 2 Long Islands,” a statement that shocked many viewers.
Many social media viewers speculate that Melgoza was in shock and couldn’t comprehend her actions and the consequences to come. Melgoza dismissed the deaths and nodded to the officer who informed her of what happened. She is seen giggling and singing “because [I] hate the quiet” and asking when she would be able to return to school. The angered and shocked officer responds by calling Melgoza “pathetic,” telling her she killed two people and will be going to jail.
Melgoza has received much backlash since. Students at Bradley University held a vigil for the two victims and many protested Melgoza’s right to walk at graduation. Although she was prevented from walking, she did receive her diploma for completing all her classes.
On Apr. 27, Stephanie Melgoza entered a blind plea, essentially pleading guilty in hopes of a lighter sentence. The Bradley Scout provides a detailed account of the court trial. The families of the victims held up photos claiming that Melgoza forever impacted the lives of those close to Andrea and Paul. They hoped Melgoza would receive the maximum sentence of 28 years in prison to pay for her actions.
However, Judge Tim Cusack sentenced her with 14 years. Claiming he does not “expect this sentencing to make anyone happy,” he wishes Melgoza’s story to be spread to raise awareness and serve as a lesson to others. He believed that 14 years was a fair punishment for her actions. Few on social media agree to this sentence and much backlash was given to Melgoza and her family.
Melgoza’s father, Patrick O’Brian, speaks out against the waves of online hate, as detailed by the New York Post. O’Brian calls those inciting hate “cowards” and that the “harassment has to stop.” He also comments that “[our] daughter did a horrible thing and will pay for it for the next 14 years of her life. The rest of [my] family did nothing.”
There is also speculation that Melgoza feels no remorse for the two victims and their families despite the teary display during her trial. Several posts on social media detail and speculate that Melgoza had gotten married and also got pregnant while on bail. Influencer @stephwithdadeets posts a TikTok that explained the alleged photos from Melgoza’s Instagram which pictures a baby shower. Another TikTok also pictures a screenshot, supposedly from Melgoza’s Instagram of her and her husband.
These posts received many comments from appalled users who claim she “continued living her life” as if nothing happened and shows no remorse. Some comments also speculate that Melgoza’s pregnancy, if true, could be a stunt to receive sympathy and less harsh treatment while in prison.
Many pray and sympathize with the family of the victims and can only hope Melgoza feels guilt and serves out her full sentence.