SUBLETTE COUNTY – 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 two-vehicle collision, 9th District Court Judge Marv Tyler sentenced Jewkes to 15 to 20 years in prison.
Jewkes initially pleaded not guilty to the 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, she changed her plea to guilty.
In the emotionally charged courtroom Thursday morning, Aug. 19, Shane Deal’s tearful, angry and grieving family confronted Jewkes, of Jackson.
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.
Crosson called Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Klief Guenther to testify about 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 given to Judge Marv Tyler and some presented in court – revealed the closeness of Deal’s family and friends before his untimely death.
Jewkes was driving her black Jeep Cherokee that crossed Highway 191 to strike Deal’s truck.
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. ... I don’t think she deserves mercy.”
Crosson asked for a 17-year to 20-year sentence for the felony and six months for the DUI.
He also requested restitution of $3,640.20 for family funeral and travel expenses and $393.19 for Bill Deal’s travel from Bar Nunn and counseling costs.
LaBuda 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 is prison for 20 years. Maybe someday you would be able to see it better from each other’s sides.”
Jewkes “reluctantly” pleaded not guilty at first but later – with no about a plea agreement – she decided it was time to change that, he said.
“She came in and pled 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.”
Casper attorney Marci Crank Bramlet, working with LaBuda and for Jewkes in civil matters, spoke.
“Except by the cruelest twist of fate, any of us could meet at the intersection” after making “a horrendous decision” as Jewkes did, she said. “We think a heavy sentence will make us feel better but whether it’s no prison or 20 years, it won’t bring someone back. Jade has already condemned herself.”
Bramlet said Jewkes “had made a catastrophic choice and accepted responsibility,” asking that she have hope for a future with a sentence of seven to 14 years and one for the DUI. The defense accepted restitution costs.
Judge Tyler said he reviewed her file, noting that after the fatal collision, WHP troopers tried to interview her but she was uncooperative.
During a presentence evaluation, she said once or twice a month she would drink “to an excessive point” and on Jan. 1, she drank for “22 hours straight.”
He read off words such as “atrocious” and “senseless,” “death and destruction,” “catastrophic choice” from victim impact statements, “including by those providing statements on your behalf.”
She might not have wanted to kill someone but her “intent” is not an element, Judge Tyler said. He said the three counties he serves – Sublette, Teton and Fremont – each have citizens with 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 then prepared to read her statement when Crosson asked if it she could move so the Deal family could see her face.
She moved and turned to speak to the Deal family; the judge told her 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 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 is committed to sobriety – “I will never again consume a drop of alcohol in my life.” She said she wants to be a positive influence and share her experience “with anyone and everyone that will listen and not shy away from the backlash.”
While Jewkes 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 before 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 the sentence of 15 to 20 years, Jewkes and others cried quietly. Her mother reached out but Jewkes was handcuffed by a court deputy and taken away.