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Bayfield teen sentenced in careless driving case
3/26/2010 By: By Melanie B. Mazur
Waylon Sutton, a Bayfield teen who pleaded guilty to a careless driving charge in the July 2009 death of a Pagosa Springs man, was sentenced on Friday, March 19.
La Plata County Judge Martha Minot sentenced Sutton to 30 days in the DeNier Youth Center in Durango, supervised probation for two years, and 200 hours of community service.
Sutton could have received up to a year in jail. Minot also ordered a mental health evaluation and that Sutton receive any treatment recommended by it.
She also recommended that Sutton place a memorial to Kenneth Laskey, the man killed in the collision, at milepost 107 of U.S. Highway 160, where the collision occurred on July 16.
During Friday’s sentencing, Sutton and his attorney admitted he had been talking and texting with his friends until 3 a.m. of the morning of the accident. He had recently received his driver’s license, and his dad came to get him that morning so he could pick up a client’s car, and Waylon Sutton could follow him to Pagosa Springs in his family’s car, a 1991 Jeep Cherokee.
Sutton’s attorney said he believed his client fell asleep behind the wheel. There were no skid marks from his tires, and the Cherokee drifted into the other lane and was possibly losing speed.
Laskey was driving a 1994 Honda accord and braked for 95 feet and tried to pull as far away as he could, testified Jonathan Silver, a Colorado State Trooper who was the primary investigator.
“He saw what was happening,” Silver said. The Cherokee came up over the hood of the Honda, and Laskey died at the scene.
Silver said there was a dog riding in Sutton’s car, but he did not investigate if the dog was a distraction. His attorney said Sutton was not using his cell phone when the accident occurred, and he hadn’t used it that morning, citing cell phone records that the family obtained.
Sutton was transported to Mercy Regional Medical Center with moderate injuries. His family said he was in intensive care for a period.
Sutton’s parents said he has not been allowed to drive or use a cell phone since the accident occurred.
Ryan Laskey, Kenneth Laskey’s 19-year-old son, told the judge that he was disappointed in Sutton’s actions since the accident took place. Police testified Sutton has had two brushes with the law, including a fistfight that injured the other person. “I hope your further decisions don’t hurt others,” Ryan Laskey said.
Danielle Laskey, his 17-year-old daughter, also spoke during the sentencing hearing.
“I don’t hate you for what you did,” she said. “I just hate it had to happen. I hope someday I can forgive you. I miss my dad… I just hope you learn from what you did and that you know you hurt people and the person you killed.”
Dressed in a dress shirt and vest, Laskey, now a senior at Bayfield High School, said he thinks every day about what happened.
“I can’t undo the wrong I did,” he said in a quiet voice. “I’m sorry.”
In her sentencing, Minot told Sutton she was concerned about “poor judgments” on his part, particularly since the accident occurred.
“If you violate any law,” particularly if there is another assault, she said, “you’ll be in jail for a significant amount of time.”
She said she has never imposed a jail sentence in a careless driving case, but thought it was warranted in this situation.
“I’m very, very, very concerned about you,” she said. “I kind of want to get your attention.”
She said he was giving him the 30-day sentence so he would have time to reflect on what happened. The sentence is to start the day after he finishes school, she ordered.
“Frankly, I’m worried about you,” she said.
She also ordered him not to drive for another year and to take a defensive driving course aimed at young drivers.