Man gets 22 1/2 to 35 years in prison for DWI that killed tow truck driver

[anvplayer video=”5192240″ station=”998132″]

A Saratoga County man was sentenced to 22 1/2 to 35 years in prison for driving drunk and causing the deadly crash that killed tow truck driver Alex Bleickhardt.

Justin P. Rodriguez, of Moreau, crashed his truck into a box truck on the shoulder of the road on Sept. 15, 2022 in Wilton near Exit 16. The crash killed Alex Bleickhardt, of Pottersville, who was working underneath the vehicle.

Rodriguez had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.26%.

He was convicted in July in Saratoga County Court following a jury trial on charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter and aggravated DWI. He was acquitted on the top count of second-degree murder.

More than two dozen of Bleickhardt’s friends and family were in the gallery wearing black T-shirts that say “Tow Lives Matter.” His dog, Moose, was also there.

His mother, Beth Shropshire-Bruno, read a letter from the mother of Bleickhardt’s son, saying that Samuel has been inconsolable with the loss of his father, struggling in school and lashing out.

Samuel’s mother said it was a willful act of the defendant that resulted in this tragedy.  

“Alex lost his life because Justin Rodriguez willfully took his life from him,” she said, reading from the statement.

Shopshire-Bruno said she and Alex were not on speaking terms when he died. She was trying to get him to spend time with his son.

“I figured he would get over it eventually,” she said.

However, she did not get that chance to reconcile with her son – because of Rodriguez’s actions to drink and get on the road, despite having no license because of three prior DWIs.

“That was his plan to do whatever he wanted regardless of consequences. He has stolen our Alex from us, and we have never seen him hang his head in shame, shed a tear,” she said.

Shopshire-Bruno regrets that she will not get to see any hugs and laughter between Alex and his brother.

“Alex’s death is a haze that covers every event for me in some way,” she said.

She said justice would be a year in prison for every year that Alex had left in his life.

Samuel Bleickhardt also wrote a letter saying he has always had difficulty processing his emotions and said the loss of his dad has made him not want to do anything.

“My education is suffering. I can’t focus on what I should because I can’t stop thinking about my dad,” he said.

Alex’s father, Ray Bleickhardt, asked the court to impose the maximum sentence – not for retribution but for the safety of other people on the road.

“Considering that Mr. Rodriguez is a repeat offender and incarceration doesn’t scare him, that’s the only control society can impose on somebody is incarceration,” he said.  

Rodriguez declined to give any statement. His attorney, Michael Martin, said his client has repeatedly told him that he wishes he had died instead of Bleickhardt and that he was only doing his job and had a family.

“He understands that and has taken responsibility,” he said.

Judge James Murphy noted in his remarks that the defendant stated in a pre-sentencing report for a 2018 DWI conviction is that he is grateful he did not hurt anyone.

Yet, that still did not stop his behavior.

“With each of those prior convictions, you had opportunity to make changes, but you did not. You continued to drink, use drugs,” he said.

He also repeated Samuel’s words from his letter and noted that he had to leave the courtroom because he was so distraught.

Murphy imposed a sentence of 12 1/2 to 25 years on the manslaughter and DWI charges. He also handed down a 10-year sentence for possessing a loaded handgun in the vehicle. The sentences will run consecutively.

District Attorney Karen Heggen said after court that Rodriguez flouted the laws with impunity.

“He had a lifetime revocation of his driving privileges in New York State and was able to thwart all of the safeguards in place and was able to convince someone to purchase, insurance and register a vehicle in someone else’s name so he could drive it,” she said.

Check back at and on NewsChannel 13’s later newscasts for more on this story.

An earlier version of this story had an incorrect length of sentence.