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Wrong-way driver who killed woman says he was trying to kill himself, charges say

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Cottonwood Heights man accused of causing a head-on crash that killed a 19-year-old woman said he was trying to end his own life by purposely driving the wrong way on the freeway, according to prosecutors.

Justin Wayne Robertson, 35, was charged Friday in 3rd District Court with murder, a first-degree felony, for the death of Gwendolyn Doner on April 19. He was also charged with 11 other crimes.

On April 19, Robertson entered I-215 at 6200 South in his Chevy Avalanche going the wrong way. At the interchange from I-215 to southbound I-15 in Murray, after already driving the wrong way for approximately six miles, he hit Doner's Ford Taurus head-on, according to charging documents.

"The crash scene provided no evidence that Robertson attempted to avoid the collision," the charges state.

A Jeep Cherokee also hit Robertson's vehicle head-on after the first crash.

Doner died less than two days later at a local hospital. Her boyfriend, Tyler Shoemaker, was also seriously injured in the crash.

After the collisions, Robertson got out of his car and ran but was arrested a short time later.

"Did I kill anybody? I was trying to kill myself," he told the officers who caught him, the charging documents state.

Police questioned Robertson, who also suffered injuries from the crash, at a local hospital. When asked if he realized he was driving the wrong way, Robertson reiterated, "Yes, I did it on purpose because I wanted to end my life," according to the charges.

Prior to the fatal crash, Robertson is accused of ramming an unoccupied Unified police patrol car that was parked at the department's Cottonwood Heights substation, 7840 S. 2700 East. When questioned about that, Robertson said he had smoked methamphetamine 10 minutes before hitting the patrol car — something he said was also done on purpose — because "he wanted to start something due to being mad at his life," the charges state.

After speeding off from the United police station and getting on the I-215 freeway going the wrong way, Robertson said he "was looking for an off-ramp" and that "led him to the collector ramp where the collision occurred. Robertson said this happened not because he was high but because he had done it on purpose," according to the charges.

A blood test showed meth, THC and amphetamines in Robertson's system and a bag of meth was also found in his pocket at the hospital, according to police.

In addition to murder, Robertson was also charged Friday with 11 other crimes including failing to stop at an officer's command resulting in death or serious injury, and DUI causing serious injury or death, both second-degree felonies; failing to stop for a serious injury accident, a third-degree felony; failing to stop for an accident and drug possession, both class A misdemeanors; as well as two other class B misdemeanors, two class C misdemeanors, and two traffic infractions.

On April 29, Robertson was charged with aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, an a domestic violence incident that prosecutors say happened on March 30. At the time of that incident, he was already free on bail for another domestic violence-related case. In September 2019 he was charged with aggravated assault and accused of pointing a gun at his father and threatening to shoot him.


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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the team in 2021 after many years of reporting for the Deseret News


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