SUBLETTE COUNTY – After a tearful Jade S. Jewkes repeated the tremendous guilt she carries for causing the fatal collision that killed Shane Deal, of Pinedale, and his family spoke of their heartbreak at his loss, a second judge sentenced her to a slightly shorter prison term than the first.
Jewkes, 30, pleaded guilty before 9th District Court Judge Marv Tyler in June 2021 to the felony of aggravated vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol on Jan. 1, 2021, when she collided head-on with Deal’s truck on Highway 191 in the Hoback Canyon.
Deal was driving a truck he’d just bought in Idaho home to Pinedale, with his sister following in a separate vehicle.
Jewkes was slightly injured and taken to St. John’s Hospital, as was the severely injured Deal who was stabilized there before a life flight to Idaho Falls. Deal died before he could be transported.
Just over one year ago, Judge Tyler sentenced Jewkes to 15 to 20 years in prison and she was transported to the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk. He cited numerous factors for choosing that sentence, including “community expectations.” Jewkes’ attorneys John LaBuda and John Robinson appealed that element to the Wyoming Supreme Court, which ruled last month her sentence would be vacated and remanded to 9th District Court for a new sentencing hearing.
Third District Court Judge Joseph Bluemel was assigned the case and set a new sentencing hearing for Aug. 15. Jewkes was brought from the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk to the Sublette County Jail but her attorneys requested more time. The judge rescheduled it for Friday, Aug. 26 in 9th District Court.
Thursday, Judge Bluemel said he reviewed every exhibit, photo, transcript and statement that preceded Judge Tyler’s original sentencing and asked for anything new to be brought to his attention. He asked a security officer to unlock her right wrist from her handcuffs.
In the courtroom, Jewkes’ friends and family sat behind her; Deal’s family sat behind Sublette County Attorney Mike Crosson.
Crosson said Deal’s three sisters had brief “supplemental victim impact statements” about the tragic year since Deal’s death and Jewkes’ first sentencing. Shawna Berg, Kendra Deal and Jolene Deal stood together and described the “still so profound” loss of their brother.
It wasn’t fair that Jewkes could tell the court “how she’s progressed,” with Shane gone, they said, with him never again able to visit, write or call. They shared concerns for his daughter – whose mother also died from illness – and for their parents, who couldn’t celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary without Shane there.
They described themselves as “shattered” and “broken” with “difficult, deep depression ... every day, over and over again.”
“She’s not sorry,” one said. “She’s just sorry she got caught.”
Jolene Deal works three jobs to help raise Shane’s daughter, after holding his hand and promising him she would do that as they waited an hour and a half in Hoback Canyon for rescue. Jewkes should “not get any credit for her rehabilitation in the past year,” she said. “She could have made so many different choices that day.”
“This was a situation where Miss Jewkes didn’t have one too many drinks, she didn’t have two too many drinks, she had many too many drinks,” Crosson told Judge Bluemel. Her blood alcohol content was .22, “three times the legal limit.”
Jewkes had testified that she was drinking throughout New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Crosson referred to a near-collision Jewkes almost had in Green River about 10 years earlier, after a deferred DUI: “She didn’t learn from that.”
“All they are going to have is memories,” he said of the Deal family.
He asked the judge to impose a 17-year, 11-month to 20-year sentence.
LaBuda said for the last 13 to 14 months, Jewkes was known as Number 3527. “She’s not a number.”
Robinson then asked Judge Bluemel to consider the Wyoming Legislature’s intent in crafting the felony’s sentence range “from zero to 20 years … for the unfortunate innocent person to the most egregious person.”
After Jewkes’ arrest, she faced multiple choices on how to proceed against the charge, he said. She could have requested a trial “or just accept her responsibility,” he said, and the only reason Jewkes pleaded not guilty at first was because her attorneys could not allow her to do otherwise.
She had drug and alcohol problems in younger years and even as a “functioning alcoholic,” was an educated hardworking member of society, Robinson said. “Going forward, she plans to deal with adversity and turn it into positive … opportunities.”
He spoke of Jewkes’ determination to help and tutor other female inmates, talk to young drivers to avoid drinking and study subjects in prison such as grief, anger and addiction. Robinson said he envisioned a shorter sentence of perhaps “8 to 10, 7 to 10, 8 to 11 years” reserving a longer term of 17 to 20 years for “that person who does not accept responsibility.”
Having a “high number on the back end” with a shorter term up front would ensure Jewkes took the sentence seriously and if she continued to improve herself as she planned, she could have the opportunity to help others.
“There are no words to explain the guilt and shame I feel every day … since Jan. 1, 2021,” Jewkes told the judge. She will feel that “weight for the rest of my life,” She thinks of Shane Deal and his family every day.
“I wish with all my heart there was something I could do to give Shane Deal his life back,” she said.”I have decided to allow my circumstances to make me better.”
She has accepted Jesus Christ and believes God has called her “to make a difference in the world and prevent others from making the same decisions. I truly am a new person.”
Sobriety showed her she never wants to be that person again and she pushed herself “to be comfortable in my own skin.” Some people wait until they are released and re-enter society to make changes but Jewkes wants “to hopefully inspire (young adults) to make different decisions than I made” about drinking and driving that could cause “the senseless death of an innocent person.”
She continued, “The worst decision I ever made does not define who I am but it will definitely affect every decision I make in the future. I would do anything to trade places with Shane.”
Judge Bluemel talked about a district court judge’s daily duties and decisions and trying “to act with fairness and integrity.”
When passing his sentence, on Aug. 26, he hoped to provide balance to everyone – Jewkes’ and the Deal families – while knowing he “can’t make anything better,” he added.
“I hope whatever it is I do today will give all of you some ability to heal and provide some finality,” Judge Bluemel said. “My job is to try to help everybody move forward in life.”
He said he recognized the heavy burdens everyone carries.
The judge said the misdemeanor DUI charge Jewkes pleased guilty to last year was not remanded and the 6-month sentence remains.
As for the felony, “you admitted your wrongdoing to the officers,” and she has “very positive character traits.” However, he said, she admitted she “had been drinking for 22 hours straight.”
Whatever sentence he imposed, the judge said, she could succeed at rehabilitation and might apply for parole one day.
“You do have the ability (to do well) and you will re-enter society,” he continued. “Whatever sentence I impose is not a death sentence. You will receive credit for good time served.”
Judge Bluemel then passed his sentence of 14 to 20 years, with 376 days credit for her prior incarceration. With more than a year’s credit, in effect Jewkes’ minimum sentence becomes 13 years. She was remanded to the county jail to await transport back to the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk.