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After mistrial, Hexom pleads guilty to 6th OWI
Patricia E. Hexom
Patricia E. Hexom

DARLINGTON — A woman whose sixth-offense drunk driving trial ended with a hung jury in May 2019 has now pleaded guilty in the case in Lafayette County Circuit Court.

Patricia E. Hexom, 56, Darlington, was sentenced June 19 to six months in jail and three years on probation for the Class G felony sixth-offense conviction of operating while intoxicated.

Hexom faced up to 10 years in prison but District Attorney Jenna Gill and Hexom’s defense attorney, Jane Bucher, jointly recommended jail time and probation because Hexom has worked hard to stay sober and sought counseling and treatment. 

“I don’t see the point of punishing her when she is doing well and staying sober,” Bucher said. “This keeps her in the community. She is not a public safety risk.”

Hexom is “well-known to law enforcement” and known in the community, so “we would know if she is not doing well,” Bucher added.

Judge Jill Karofsky accepted the joint sentence recommendation and congratulated Hexom on two years of sobriety.

But Karofsky cautioned that OWI is a “grave offense” with the real possibility of causing injury or death. She said it concerned her that the case involved Hexom getting into an accident and leaving the scene.

“Thank god we are here on an OWI and not OWI homicide,” she said.

Hexom previously took the case to trial.

No one saw her drive on the day in question, May 26, 2018, when a sheriff’s deputy found her walking along Wisconsin 23 outside Darlington.

According to court records, Hexom told the deputy she had been a passenger in a car accident nearby. She said the driver left the scene so she decided to walk back to Darlington.

She told the deputy she had been drinking at Mike’s Corner Bar in Darlington and knew she was too intoxicated to drive so she asked a man she met at the bar named “Shawn” to drive her. She described him as tall and “handsome,” with blond curly hair.

When the deputy went to the bar to investigate, no one reported seeing anyone matching that description. Witnesses reported Hexom left the bar alone.

Later the same day, according to police, Hexom confessed to driving and to lying earlier because she didn’t want to go back to prison for another OWI.

Still, no witness testified to seeing Hexom drive that day. Jurors wrote a note to the judge that they were “at a standstill without reaching 100% consensus.”

Rather than take it to another trial, Hexom chose to enter a plea in the case.

“That was my first accident I have been in with drinking,” she said when given the opportunity to speak at her sentencing. “When I got in that accident it scared me more than anything in my life that I could have hurt someone and I don’t ever want that feeling again.”

Hexom said she has gone through periods of sobriety of two to three years before, and she is still scared of relapsing even now. It’s a pattern she’s been repeating for 30 years.

She has more support this time around, however. She sought help from a counselor and psychiatrist, got diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder and is on medications.

“That is why I have been doing so well lately: proper medications,” she said.

Even with medications, however, she’s struggled with grief and had thoughts of relapsing.

“I lost my father recently and it has been very hard,” she said.

But, “I don’t ever want to go back to that life. My whole life has been formed around alcohol. I don’t like that life. I like the life I have now. I feel so much better about myself. I’m learning how to deal with life on my terms, and accepting what comes at me.”

Hexom was previously convicted of OWI in June 1991, October 1993, October 1996, March 2004 and April 2013. For her fifth OWI offense, in Rock County, she was sentenced to one year and eight months in prison and one year and six months on extended supervision.