Breckenridge woman pleads guilty to vehicular homicide in fatal Highway 9 crash
BRECKENRIDGE — Lindsey Leigh Ward, the woman responsible for causing a fatal crash on Colorado Highway 9 while drunken driving last year, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide during a hearing at the Summit County Justice Center on Tuesday afternoon.
Ward appeared in custody for the hearing in person, along with attorneys and Chief Judge Mark Thompson, who donned a face mask throughout the proceedings as justice system officials continue to make adjustments in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Others tuned into the meeting via the court’s virtual WebEx system to watch the disposition.
On Aug. 30, 2019, law enforcement agents with Colorado State Patrol and Summit County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a double rollover on Highway 9 just north of Blue River, according to police reports of the incident.
On scene, medical personnel confirmed that two individuals, later identified as 41-year-old Benjamin Mitton and 43-year-old Nichole Gough, were killed in the crash. Witnesses told police that Ward was driving southbound on the highway before swerving across the center dividing line into the northbound lane and colliding with the other vehicle.
Police found Ward’s car down an embankment just south from the crash site. The other vehicle was turned over on its side in the road.
Ward was taken to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, where she underwent blood draws and breath tests. The blood tests were sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and experts were later able to estimate her blood alcohol level at 0.290 at the time of the crash, more than three times the legal limit, according to the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
She was booked at the Summit County jail on charges of vehicular homicide and driving under the influence. In September, the District Attorney’s Office formally charged Ward with two counts of vehicular homicide-DUI and two counts of vehicular homicide-reckless driving.
In January, Ward pleaded not guilty to all four charges, and Thompson set a date for a weeklong trial in June. Though, Ward and her representation changed their tune before the trial began, choosing instead to accept a plea agreement.
During the hearing Tuesday, Ward pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide-DUI, both class 3 felonies. The other charges were dropped. As part of the agreement, all parties involved have agreed to a stipulated sentencing range of between eight and 20 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections. Though, Ward also will be screened for eligibility to enter a community corrections facility instead.
“I am very proud of the investigative work completed by our troopers that led to a successful prosecution in this case,” Colorado State Patrol Chief Col. Matthew Packard said about the outcome. “Benjamin and Nichole lost their lives that evening because of the selfish decision committed by the defendant, but countless more are still feeling the pain from this incident. Drivers must take personal responsibility and choose to never drive impaired.”
Ward’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 15.
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