21-year-old sentenced to five years for vehicular homicide on Highway 9
Ryan Summerlin August 14, 2013
HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — A young man accused of killing two individuals and injuring another in a 2012 collision on Highway 9 has been sentenced to five years in prison.
David Torroni, 21, was sentenced in 14th Judicial District Court in Hot Sulphur Springs after pleading guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault, spawning from a Nov. 12, 2012, incident during which he hit a vehicle on Highway 9 just south of Kremmling, killing the driver and backseat passenger, and injuring the front-seat passenger.
Torrini, who was 20 at the time the accident, was traveling from Steamboat Springs to Summit County after snowboarding at Steamboat with friends, where he had been consuming alcohol and marijuana, according to court documents.
Family and friends of both the defendant and the victims in the case packed the courtroom on Friday, Aug. 9, to hear 14th Judicial District Judge Mary Hoak hand down her judgment. Driver Brian Houle, 38, and passenger Megan Ritter, 31, lost their lives in the accident; passenger Todd Craft, 35, was seriously injured. All three had recently moved to the Denver area from Ohio.
Brett Barkey, 14th Judicial District Attorney, argued that Torroni should be sentenced to seven years for each charge of vehicular homicide and five years for the vehicular assault charge, to run consecutively, totaling 19 years in prison.
“This court should send a clear, resounding message that drinking or drugged driving will not be tolerated. The catastrophic and tragic damage that Mr. Torroni caused, two deaths and a serious injury, the impact on the victim’s families and the community in Kremmling, must have real consequence to deter others from engaging in the same conduct and putting our community at such a risk. Only a significance prison sentence does that,” Barkey said.
The defendant’s attorney in the case, Charles Feldmann of Feldmann Nagel LLC., of Denver, argued that Torroni had no previous criminal history and was a “young man who made a terrible mistake.”
The incident took place near the Colorado River Bridge on Highway 9, when Torroni, driving a 2008 Ford truck, failed to negotiate a turn and crossed the center line 3.8 feet into the northbound lane. He contacted the Nissan Sentra, according to the affidavit for the arrest warrant.
Witnesses stated Torroni was traveling at a high rate of speed and was unable to make the corner, striking the Nissan in the side.
The driver of the Nissan, Houle, was mostly outside of the vehicle and was found with a pulse, though died moments later at the scene. Ritter was found dead in the backseat of the car and Craft was transported to the Kremmling Hospital with severe injuries including a broken back.
It was stated in court that Torroni had tested positive for alcohol with a Blood Alcohol Content, or BAC, of .07 after the accident. Driving with a BAC of .08 constitutes a DUI.
“This is a terrible hearing for everyone,” Hoak said as she handed down her decision to place Torroni in prison for five years with credit for 261 days he had already served.
She did not assign consecutive sentences in this case, stating she believes there is no value she can assign to a lost loved one.
Hoak commented that she did not believe Toronni to be a “monster,” and that she hoped he would spread the message after he is released from prison that no one should drink and drive.
Judge Hoak also addressed Houle’s surviving young son during her sentencing, saying she hoped the boy did not grow up to be angry about losing his father and that he should keep playing basketball, something Houle’s mother and stepfather said he excels at.
“While we appreciate that the Court agreed that a prison sentence was appropriate in this case, we are nevertheless deeply disappointed that the length of the sentence was only five years. Our community can be assured that our office, together with our law enforcement partners in this district, will continue to aggressively prosecute drinking or drugged driving to the full extent of the law,” Barkey said in statements released on Aug. 9.