Anger flares as man avoids prison in fatal crash
A driver who killed a Pear Park woman as she walked on a sidewalk avoided a prison sentence on Thursday under a plea agreement that divided the victim’s family.
Amid audible sneers and anger from some members of the victim’s family in District Judge Richard Gurley’s courtroom, 22-year-old Joseph Weixel was sentenced to serve seven years in Mesa County Community Corrections in connection with a crash that killed 50-year-old Darinda Brown, who was run over by a GMC Suburban driven by Weixel as Brown walked arm-in-arm with her granddaughter in the 400 block of Canyon Trail on Oct. 2, 2011. Weixel pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide with recklessness, reckless endangerment and driving while ability impaired.
If Weixel is kicked out of Community Corrections, he faces eight years in the Colorado Department of Corrections, according to the plea agreement.
Weixel faced a maximum eight-year sentence in Community Corrections under the agreement.
“I’m amazed he’s even eligible for that,” Jessica Radkliff, Brown’s daughter, said in a tearful and angry critique of the deal.
“He had a warrant out for his arrest when he killed my mother,” she told the judge. “He’s been in trouble before, but apparently that doesn’t matter here.”
Brown’s mother, Cathy Mayberry, said she hasn’t forgiven Weixel following a face-to-face meeting with her daughter’s killer as part of court-authorized victim mediation, which took place in the Mesa County Jail. Weixel expressed interest in continued education while serving his sentence, Mayberry noted.
“My daughter would have wanted him to make something of himself,” she said.
With a suspended driver’s license, Weixel got behind the wheel of a GMC Suburban, swerved it up on a sidewalk and struck Brown, narrowly avoiding Brown’s 18-year-old granddaughter, Abigail Radkliff. Brown’s dog was killed.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Trish Mahre said the plea agreement in the case was largely the result of weak evidence of intoxication. While a Colorado State Patrol trooper wrote in an arrest affidavit that he noted an odor of alcohol on Weixel’s breath, results of blood tests showed no trace of alcohol but a small level of marijuana, attorneys said Thursday.
Weixel’s blood sample wasn’t taken until approximately four hours after the crash, meaning the results likely don’t reflect the true level of impairment at the time of the crash, according to Mahre. Prosecutors also had conflicting observations of Weixel’s impairment from Mesa County Sheriff’s Department deputies and state troopers: At least two deputies at the scene said they didn’t believe Weixel was under the influence.
Mahre said it was on that basis that they backed away from the most serious charge in the case, Class 3 felony vehicular homicide while DUI.
Weixel at the time of the crash had an outstanding arrest warrant for failure to comply with a court order. He has a prior conviction for underage possession of alcohol and a juvenile weapons offense.
Gurley, in imposing the sentence, said vehicular homicide cases are easily the toughest he presides over.
“I don’t think anybody ever walks out of my courtroom feeling like they got justice,” the judge said.