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TWIN FALLS, Idaho — A Utah man who was the driver in a crash that killed his fiancée last year was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation and two more days in jail Tuesday.
Judge Thomas Kershaw sentenced Sean David Rees, 23, to 180 days in jail, but suspended 150 of those and gave him credit for 28 days he has already spent in jail while the case was pending, reported the Times-News.
Kershaw suspended a $1,000 fine but sentenced Rees to pay court costs and reimburse the public defender’s office. However, it remains to be litigated whether Rees will have to pay $46,000 in restitution the prosecution is seeking, most of which would be to a woman Rees struck when he ran a stop sign in Twin Falls County southwest of town, totaling her new truck, requiring her to get neck surgery and costing her lost time at work. About $1,000 of the restitution is being claimed for a home at the intersection that was damaged when the crash pushed the truck into it.
Rees’s passenger in the June 2016 crash was Ashley Webb, 23. She and Rees had been together since high school, and they had a young son. They lived in the Salt Lake City area, had recently gotten engaged and were visiting Webb’s family when the crash happened.
“She was not only my daughter, she was his mother,” said Paula Norman, Webb’s mother. “And her life was taken because of his negligence to stop at a stop sign.”
Webb’s mother and her husband, the truck driver and the homeowner all spoke at the hearing, as did Rees’s mother and grandmother.
“I will never forget (Webb’s) mom screaming and crying,” said Lydia Buffington, who was driving the truck. “It was the most heartbreaking day.”
Rees’s mother and grandmother talked about their own grief for Ashley Webb, who they also viewed as part of their family.
“We lost Ashley too,” said Angela Rees, his mother. “We grieve every single day.”
Deputy Prosecutor Kiel Willmore asked Rees be sentenced to a year, with 275 days suspended and 90 to be served in jail. He highlighted the several different versions Rees told police of why he ran the stop sign, and pointed to the lack of skidmarks, indicating he didn’t try to stop. Webb’s family, Willmore said, wasn’t out for revenge.
“They just want justice to be served,” he said.
Rees’s lawyer, Rori Stokes, asked for a more lenient sentence, pointing out that it was Rees’s first offense and saying running the stop sign was a mistake. She said Rees worried about being able to take care of his son, and about losing his job if he were to get more jail time.
“This isn’t a case that this incident will be repeated,” she said. “It’s a tragic accident that could happen to anyone.”
The lawyers for the two sides argued about how cooperative Rees had been with authorities, and visitation of his son was an issue between him and Webb’s family as well. Norman said she hadn’t seen her grandson since the crash, and Willmore said Rees hadn’t let them visit or even sent pictures of the boy as he has promised. Stokes countered that Rees’s family had tried to text the pictures but they failed to go through since the files were too big. She also said the Normans tried to keep the child from him after the crash. Rees told Kershaw he wants Norman to be in her grandson’s life but wants to make sure it’s done through a legal process.
Kershaw said everyone involved in the case had lost a loved one, and he spoke of an intersection near his own home where drivers frequently run the stop signs. Some are lucky and there aren’t any other vehicles so they keep going, while others get into a crash. The action, he said, is the same, “but the consequences were drastically different.”
Kershaw said jailing Rees for an extended period would threaten his ability to care for his son and would likely mean he would lose his job, making it more difficult to pay whatever restitution the court ends up ordering.