By Joy Ufford
Via Wyoming News Exchange
PINEDALE — After hearing from defendant Jade S. Jewkes herself and her supporters, and after earlier hearing from family and friends of the Pinedale man she killed in a New Year’s Day head-on collision, 9th District Court Judge Marv Tyler sentenced Jewkes to 15 to 20 years in prison.
Jewkes initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of aggravated vehicular homicide while intoxicated of Shane Deal, of Pinedale, on the advice of defense attorney John LaBuda, he told the court.
After reviewing police reports, they agreed she could change her plea to guilty.
In the emotionally charged courtroom Thursday morning, Aug. 19, Shane Deal’s tearful, angry and grieving family confronted Jade S. Jewkes, of Jackson, the New Year’s Day driver who earlier pleaded guilty to aggravated homicide by vehicle while intoxicated.
They and Sublette County Attorney Mike Crosson each asked 9th District Court Judge Marv Tyler to impose the maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the felony charge.
Crosson called Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Klief Guenther to testify about the 911 calls and collision details; he said Jewkes’ blood alcohol content was .22 two hours after the collision. She was only slightly injured.
Victim impact statements – some letters given to Judge Marv Tyler and some presented in court in the morning – revealed the closeness of Deal’s family and friends before his untimely death.
Deal’s father said Shane’s tragic death was “indescribable,” “a parent’s worst nightmare.”
Everyone in court wore face masks, per Supreme Court COVID rules; Jewkes often wiped her eyes during their victim statements.
Jewkes was driving her black Jeep Cherokee that crossed Highway 191 to strike Deal’s truck. Other drivers had called 911 to warn about her dangerous driving. Officers arrived shortly after the collision with emergency workers some time behind them.
Deal’s sister, driving behind him that day, said she “watched in horror” as a black Jeep crossed into her brother’s lane.
“No – no – no,” she said, knowing they would crash. “I watched her slam into my brother’s vehicle. … I thought, ‘He’d be okay if I could just get him out.’”
She held his hand through the truck’s back window and patted his head as Shane, trapped inside the crushed cab, struggled to breathe. He began giving her messages “asking me to tell everyone he loved them.”
She struggled to reassure him but in spite of a helicopter flight to Jackson, an hour after the accident, he died. She asked Judge Tyler to impose the maximum sentence.
Jewkes “could have pulled over and slept it off,” she said. “My family has already been given a sentence of our own. Her actions were willful, deliberate and cruel to say the least. I don’t think she deserves mercy.”
Crosson had shown the judge photos of Deal with family.
“There’s no reason, there’s no excuse, there’s no justification for this to be nothing but a memory. … This is selfish, senseless,” he said.
He said Jewkes had a deferred DUI in 2012, “a chance she failed to take advantage of,” and asked the judge to impose a 17-year to 20-year sentence as deterrence.
LaBuda’s voice was barely audible as he called character witnesses: Jewkes’ friends and coworkers and her mother and stepfather. They described a caring, loving and generous woman who worked hard, loved her job, cared for friends and bought her own house last year.
Her stepfather described Jewkes’ “mental, emotional and spiritual transformation” since Jan. 1, taking responsibility for her actions, being truly remorseful and refocusing her priorities.
“I do not believe a person’s character can be summoned up by a single decision,” her mother said, adding what the Deal family has endured “is unimaginable to me.”
LaBuda said vilifying Jewkes would be easier if she was “a bad person.” He understood why the Deal family “just wants to see Jade in prison for 20 years. Maybe someday you will be able to see it better from each other’s sides.”
Jewkes “reluctantly” pleaded not guilty at first but later – with no word about a plea agreement – she decided it was time to change that, he said.
“She came in and (pleaded) guilty – ‘I did wrong, I did a horrible wrong,’ she’s such a good person, she knew she had to plead guilty, and she did.”
Jewkes is working with a Casper attorney in a civil case to ensure insurance money goes to Deal’s family, he added.
The defense requested a prison sentence of seven to 14 years and rested.
Judge Tyler said he reviewed her file, pre-sentence investigative report and transcripts, noting that after the fatal collision, WHP troopers tried to interview her but she was uncooperative with them and emergency medical personnel.
During an evaluation, she said once or twice a month she would drink “to an excessive point” and on Jan. 1 had drank for “22 hours straight.”
He read off words such as “atrocious” and “senseless,” “death and destruction,” “catastrophic choices” mentioned in victim impact statements.
She might not have expected a fatal collision to happen but her “intention” is not an element of that law, Judge Tyler said. He described the three counties he serves – Sublette, Teton and Fremont – with citizens of each having very different expectations.
“I try to consider where I am in my jurisdiction and what the citizens expect me to do,” weighing that with rehabilitation, deterrence and punishment “to come up with a fair and just sentence.”
“I would be unfair if I did not tell you this before you address the court,” the judge said.
Jewkes prepared to read her statement from the defense table when Crosson asked if it would be possible for her to move so the Deal family could see her face.
She moved to the inside aisle seat and turned to speak to the Deal family; the judge told her she had to address him. She expressed deep “regret and sorrow” for their “insurmountable loss.”
“Pleading not guilty was one of my worst experiences,” she said. “I am guilty.”
There has not been one day since Jan. 1 that she has not carried the weight of her decision to drive drunk and end up taking Deal’s life and will not be “a day going forward that I do not think of Shane,” she said.
She added she would “pray for their healing and comfort until my last day on this earth. … My actions were inexcusable. … I truly hope you can find some justice at the conclusion of these proceedings today.”
Jewkes said she is committed to sobriety. “I will never again consume a drop of alcohol in my life,” she said.
Jewkes said that while she can’t change the outcome of “the horrific impact” she left on the Deal family, “I take 100 percent responsibility for the decision I made to drink and drive on Jan. 1. I stand ready to accept any consequences set by (Judge Tyler).”
Judge Tyler ordered two restitution requests to be paid – one for $3,640.20 for Deal’s funeral costs and another for $392.19 for counseling.
As he pronounced his sentence of 15 to 20 years, Jewkes cried. Her mother reached her hand out, but Jewkes was handcuffed by a court deputy and taken to the jail.