Driver sentenced for 2014 fatal crash
Less than a month shy of the four-year anniversary of a fatal accident, Leroy Alvin Hicks Jr., 55, the driver of one of the two vehicles in the crash, was sentenced Jan. 25, to 54 months in prison.
Hicks, of Warm Springs, pleaded no contest to criminally negligent homicide, a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and two counts of third-degree assault, Class C felonies, punishable by up to five years in prison, for the Feb. 17, 2014, accident, which claimed the life of his 5-year-old grandson, Royce Hicks Greene.
By pleading no contest, he neither admitted, nor denied the charges, but conceded that there is enough evidence for a conviction.
The accident occurred just before 5 p.m., about seven miles north of Madras, at the intersection of Northwest Gumwood Lane and Northwest Boise Drive.
According to Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche, "Hicks admitted to Detective Bryan Skidgel in a recorded interview after the crash that the brakes on the vehicle he had been driving, a 1984 Chevrolet Suburban, had become increasingly difficult to operate throughout the day, making it increasingly difficult to stop the vehicle."
Hicks was westbound on Gumwood, and failed to stop at Boise Drive, driving into the path of a southbound 2001 Ford Mustang, driven by Colton Hemenway, who was 19 at the time.
The Suburban rolled and came to rest upside down, against a telephone pole, partially ejecting the 5-year-old, who died at the scene, despite the efforts of bystanders and emergency personnel. Hicks and two adult female passengers were all transported by ambulance to St. Charles Madras.
The front of the red Mustang ended up slightly underneath the back end of the Suburban, on the southwest corner of the intersection.
Hemenway, now 23, and Kiana Waheneka, now 21, both had to be extracted from the Mustang, and transported to St. Charles Madras. Hemenway was later transported by an AirLink helicopter to St. Charles Bend, where he spent a week and a half in intensive care, according to Brentley Steele Foster, the chief deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case.
Foster described the injuries suffered by Hemenway and Waheneka. Hemenway, now of Bend, had a closed head injury, broken arm and damage to his ankle, which resulted in ankle bone fusion. Waheneka, of Madras, also had a closed head injury, causing memory loss; a fractured neck, resulting in fused vertabrae; and a broken leg, requiring a plate, rod and screws.
Investigators reported that they did not believe that the 5-year-old was secured in his booster seat or a seat belt, since he had no marks on his body that would have been consistent with seat belt usage. Foster said that the child and everything in the front of the vehicle ended up on the ground in front of the vehicle, while the booster seat and other items from the back of the vehicle ended up in the debris field behind the vehicle.
Citing "the defendant's complete lack of empathy," Foster also called attention to Hicks' efforts to blame the crash on Hemenway, even after his own investigator found that Hemenway was not speeding when the crash occurred.
Calling Hicks "a bully," Hemenway said that he lost an internship as a result of threats from Hicks, who called him a "baby killer."
"It's really unfair the treatment I've received by being a victim of this crime," said Hemenway.
Attorney John Gutbezahl, of Lake Oswego, who represented Hicks, said that his client was a father of six, who had served in the U.S. military and worked as a heavy equipment operator while raising his family.
"The offense did not involve drugs or alcohol," he said, stressing that it was due to brake failure. "Mr. Hicks has been mourning the death of his grandson the last four years; you can understand he wouldn't want to accept that."
Gutbezahl also asked that the 18-month sentences for each of the three offenses run concurrently, rather than consecutively.
Hicks said he was "sorry about everything," adding, "I want to get this over so I can take care of my family."
Noting that he has no intention of bothering anyone, Hicks said that he had recently been in the hospital in intensive care, and is now "stuck in this wheelchair," and undergoing dialysis three times a week.
Before sentencing Hicks, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Annette Hillman told him, "It's time to stop blaming Mr. Hemenway for what occurred that day."
On the charge of criminally negligent homicide for the death of his grandson, and the two counts of third-degree assault for the severe injuries to Hemenway and Waheneka, Hillman sentenced Hicks to three consecutive 18-month sentences, for a total of four and one-half years. His driving license was permanently revoked, and following his release from prison, he must serve three years of post-prison supervision. Charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault were dismissed.
Regarding the case, which has taken nearly four years to resolve, Leriche thanked the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office "for their unwavering commitment to seeking justice in this case."