Omaha man sentenced for DUI crash deaths of 2 women, unborn child

After driving drunk, traveling more than 100 mph when the crash occurred, he pled ‘no contest’ in November
The man accused of hitting and killing two Gretna women and an unborn child was sentenced in district court today.
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 12:55 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - An Omaha man did not receive the maximum sentence Wednesday after pleading “no contest” in a drunk-driving crash that left two women and an 8-month-old unborn baby dead.

Facing a maximum sentence of 43 years in prison, Zachary Paulison was instead sentenced Wednesday to 32 years for motor vehicle homicide.

That means he’ll spend 16 years in jail at a minimum.

Paulison pleaded no contest in November for two counts of motor vehicle homicide as the result of driving under the influence; and one count of motor vehicle homicide resulting in the death of an unborn child.

Zachary Paulison
Zachary Paulison(Omaha Police Department)

Victims Sara Zimmerman, 37, and her unborn baby, Brooks, were killed in the fiery wreck. Zimmerman was eight months pregnant at the time.

Her best friend, 38-year-old Amanda Schook, was in the passenger seat and also died. Both women were from Gretna.

Paulison was drunk when he slammed his work truck into their car at 192nd and F streets on March 31. At the point of impact, he was going 102 mph.

The victims’ families gave emotional testimony before the judge made his decision. Several asked the judge to give Paulison the maximum punishment.

“I remember getting a phone call from Sara’s husband that night; and when I looked at the time, I immediately thought it was time to head to the hospital to deliver my new grandson. I could not have been more wrong,” said Sara’s mother, Darla Bengtson.

Schook’s father, Roland Handley, also made a statement.

“What’s the difference between a heavy-duty ford truck and a Glock 19 pistol? Six thousand pounds,” he said. “His finger was the weapon, and the truck was the ammo. If anything calls for a sentence with special circumstances, this case does.”

But Sara’s husband, Brian, asked the judge for grace.

“I believe that if Sara were here, she would look at the good in the person,” he said Wednesday. “She would not look at Mr. Paulison and say, ‘Throw away the keys.’ She would be the first person to tell you, ‘Let’s give this guy a chance to see what he can do for society.’”

The last man to address the court — Paulison himself — stressed he’s been getting help for his addictions ever since the fatal crash.

“I know the word ‘sorry’ is not enough — not now, and possibly not ever,” he said.

After nearly two hours, Judge Duane Dougherty gave his sentence, stressing the violent nature of the crash, drunk driving at excessive speeds, and the horrible nature of death — dental records were needed to identify the victims.

Digital Director Gina Dvorak contributed to this story.