Accident victim won’t live, judge told
Tearful relatives of a Grand Junction woman who was run down by an SUV while on a walk told a judge Tuesday that although they are praying for a miracle, the woman is in a coma and they don’t expect her to survive.
“The charges are going to have to be amended” from vehicular assault to vehicular homicide, said Mike Romero, the son-in-law of 50-year-old Darinda Brown. “It’s just a matter of time. I hate to say that here in front of her daughters.”
Romero said Brown “was dead three times” — at the accident scene, in the ambulance and at St. Mary’s Hospital. She was revived each time but stands less than a 1 percent chance of recovering from her injuries, according to one of her daughters, Jessica Rackliff.
“My mother is a very strong woman and we’re all praying she makes it out of this OK,” Rackliff told Mesa County Judge Bruce Raaum.
Brown was walking in the 400 block of Canyon Trail in Pear Park Sunday evening with her 17-year-old granddaughter, Abigail Rackliff, and her dog when a 1993 GMC Suburban driven by Joseph Leo Weixel, 21, went onto the sidewalk and struck Brown and the dog, according to the Colorado State Patrol and Brown’s relatives.
Abigail Rackliff saw the GMC coming and was able to jump out of the way, Romero said. The dog died at the scene.
Brown was run over by the GMC’s left rear tire and suffered skull and other bone fractures. Jessica Rackliff said her mother has been unconscious since the accident, is breathing on a respirator and has no brain function. She said the family is seeking a third medical opinion after the first two offered little or no hope of her pulling through.
A Colorado State Patrol trooper indicated in an arrest affidavit that he smelled a faint odor of alcohol on Weixel’s breath. A series of exams led troopers to conclude Weixel was under the influence of marijuana and a central nervous system depressant. While noting alcohol is a depressant, troopers have not identified the depressant in Weixel’s case.
Court records show Weixel’s driver’s license was suspended in 2009 for underage possession of alcohol. In addition, he had a warrant out for his arrest at the time of the crash for failing to complete 24 hours of useful public service for the alcohol offense, Raaum said.
“He should not have even been out on the streets,” Jessica Rackliff told Raaum. “He should have been in custody.”
Romero told the judge Weixel is a medical-marijuana cardholder, although that information couldn’t immediately be confirmed. Neither Weixel nor Public Defender Mark Backstrom addressed that comment in statements they made to Raaum.
In an unusual gesture, relatives of Weixel approached Brown’s family members in court, hugged them and offered condolences. Romero and Jessica Rackliff, in exchange, told Weixel’s family they don’t blame them for the accident.
Raaum advised Weixel he could be charged with two counts of vehicular assault and single counts of reckless driving, driving under the influence and driving under revocation and ordered him held on $50,000 bail.
Backstrom criticized the lack of detail in the State Patrol’s arrest affidavit and questioned whether there was probable cause to charge Weixel with vehicular assault, the most serious count.
“There’s nothing saying this was a malicious or intentful crime on Mr. Weixel’s part,” Backstrom said.
Raaum, though, noted that vehicular assault simply alleges someone was driving recklessly, not acting with intent to harm.
Prosecutors are expected to formally file charges against Weixel on Oct. 13.