Driver in fatal Big Bay crash sent to prison

MARQUETTE – A Powell Township woman was ordered to serve 19 months to 15 years in prison Friday for leaving the scene of a February 2012 accident that killed 21-year-old Michael Tyler Abbott of Big Bay.

Amy Lynn Tierrablanca, 34, of Big Bay was sentenced by Marquette County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Solka. She pleaded guilty last month, under a plea arrangement, to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing death.

Tierrablanca was initially charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, causing death, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison or a fine of $2,500 to $10,000.

Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Wiese said the revised charge removed the alcohol component. Blood alcohol tests were taken five hours after Tierrablanca had been behind the wheel, Wiese said.

“She pleaded to the same level offense as she was originally charged,” Wiese said. “We’re satisfied with the sentence because it resulted in a term of incarceration in prison.”

Defense attorney Karl Numinen said Solka agreed to reduce the minimum sentence guideline range from 26 months to 19.

“The judge partially granted my request,” Numinen said. “He didn’t take it to the next step which would have been a jail term (rather than prison).”

The crash occurred on Feb. 4, 2012. Michigan State Police at the Negaunee regional post were dispatched shortly after 3 a.m. to a single vehicle rollover accident on Marquette County Road 550, south of County Road KH near Big Bay.

Police said a northbound vehicle ran off the roadway, hit a snowbank, rolled and then struck the guy wire of a utility pole. First responders found Abbott trapped inside the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Troopers talked with several witnesses and identified Tierrablanca as the driver of the vehicle.

Marquette City Police Department officers interviewed witness Clarissa Bean, 21, at Marquette General Hospital. Bean had been hurt while riding in the crashed vehicle. Troopers said Bean of Big Bay sought her own treatment for injuries and was later released from the hospital.

Numinen said the judge read 47 letters sent to him.

“Amy has an enormous amount of support from her family, coworkers and members of her community and they expressed that in over 40 letters of support to the judge asking for leniency,” Numinen said.

Numinen said Tierrablanca has also had an “enormous amount of remorse,” since the accident occurred, “which she could not express until sentencing day.” On her behalf, Numinen said “this was the best possible resolution to what was such a tragic case.”

Wiese said the incident and its sentencing conclusion demonstrates what happens when you’re driving, hit someone and leave the scene of the accident.

“Overall, I believe the punishment fits the crime and sends a message to the community,” Wiese said.

According to his obituary, Abbott was born in Omaha, Neb., and raised there until he moved to Big Bay with his family in 1998. He was a Negaunee High School graduate and worked for the Kiskis Logging Co.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is