Spartanburg Man Gets Forty Years

For drug trafficking

Patrick Gentry
July 08, 2019 - 5:46 pm

A Spartanburg man received a 40-year prison sentence today for a drug-related wreck that claimed the life of an 11-year-old and critically injured the child’s mother.

30-year-old Michael Eugene Kelley II pleaded guilty to felony driving under the influence with death, felony driving under the influence with great bodily injury, driving under suspension.

He also pleaded guilty to 6 drug charges that were pending when the traffic fatality occurred. Circuit Judge Keith Kelly issued a 25-year prison sentence for felony driving under the influence with a death and a consecutive 15-year prison sentence for distribution of fentanyl.

Kelley caused the Feb. 8, 2019 wreck on Highway 9 that claimed the life of Ethan Rubenzer and injured his mother, Patricia Rubenzer. Kelley was driving a Chevrolet Equinox south about 7:10 a.m. when he collided with a Kia SUV driven by Patricia Rubenzer at the Bird’s Eye View intersection. Kelley disregarded the stoplight and struck the passenger side of the Rubenzer’s car. The Rubenzer’s car overturned and struck a vehicle in front of it.

Ethan died as a result of injuries sustained in the wreck. Mrs. Rubenzer sustained 3 broken ribs.

Highway Patrol troopers smelled the odor of marijuana when they approached Kelley. A small bag of marijuana was found in Kelley’s car. A blood test from Kelley showed active marijuana (THC) and THC metabolite in his system.

When Kelley arrived at the hospital, he admitted to smoking marijuana the night before the wreck.  

Mrs. Rubenzer was taking her son to school when the wreck occurred. The wreck occurred days before Ethan’s 12th birthday.

“I admire the courage shown by the Rubenzer family today in court,” Solicitor Barry Barnette said. “They spoke in vivid detail about the impact of this horrific tragedy on their lives. No parent should have to go through this.”

“Michael Kelley’s drug dealings and his drug usage earned him a well-deserved lengthy prison sentence,” Barnette added. 

Kelley’s prior criminal record included convictions for possession of cocaine and violation of probation.

The unrelated drug charges occurred as a result of an investigation by the Sheriff’s Office in the fall of 2017. Deputies utilized an undercover informant to make multiple heroin purchases from Kelley at a Phifer Drive home.

Quantities of marijuana and fentanyl were also recovered during the investigation.


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