About to meet her fate for driving drunk and killing her friend, Emily Standley, 19, stood and did what few defendants do.
She asked her victims’ families to raise their hands — so she could address them directly as she expressed her sorrow over the Nov. 4 crash that killed Jason Hald, 18, at Wenninghoff Road and Sorensen Parkway.
In the second row, Jason Hald’s mother, Keri DeForest, and stepfather, Todd DeForest, slightly raised their hands.
Tearful and trembling slightly, Standley told them this: “Jason was a great person, the first to talk to me after I transferred to Northwest (High School). He was the easiest person to talk to. I got to know him very well.”
And this: “I hurt a lot of people and I destroyed a life — all because I wanted to drink. ... Since Nov. 4, my life hasn’t been the same. My life will never be the same.”
And this: “I am completely sorry from the bottom of my heart. Words can’t describe how truly sorry I am. What I did was wrong. And I regret that decision more than anything.”
Douglas County District Judge Greg Schatz noted Standley’s remorse. But he also noted her chronic “chemical addiction” — including repeated marijuana and alcohol use.
Schatz sentenced Standley to five to seven years in prison — a term that is cut in half under state law — for her motor-vehicle homicide conviction. She had faced up to 20 years in prison.
Standley told police that she blacked out and had no memory of running a red light at Sorensen Parkway and driving her Chevrolet Cavalier into the path of a Ford F-250 pickup driven by David Moore Jr., 50. The pickup crashed into the passenger side of the Cavalier. Moore and his 12-year-old son escaped serious injury. Standley’s front-seat passenger, Myles McIntyre, suffered two fractured ribs and a cut spleen.
Hald, in the back seat, died.
Though Standley had no record, Schatz said, it wasn’t the first time she had been “blackout drunk.”
“The marijuana and alcohol use has been a pattern for years,” Schatz said. “This is an extremely serious offense.”
Hald’s death has left his family and friends reeling.
Todd DeForest said he was fortunate that Jason’s father, Jamie Hald, didn’t mind sharing Jason. Jason was the big brother to his siblings and step-siblings in his blended families.
“He always said he was happy to have two dads and two moms,” Todd DeForest said. “Everyone loved Jason, and Jason loved everyone.”
At 6 feet tall and more than 200 pounds, Hald was a jovial goofball who loved to dole out hugs. He loved to play video games and watch movies — and, like any senior in high school, he was trying to figure out what he wanted to do after high school. Maybe go into the Army. Maybe get a job with this stepdad.
Whatever it was, he wanted to have fun doing it.
“I swear he was like John Candy’s kid,” Todd DeForest said. “Just a big heart.”
“He was like my mirror image,” Keri DeForest said. “He was just a big goofball. He had the biggest heart I’ve ever seen, from the time he was little up until (his death). That’s why he had so many friends.”
One of those friends was Standley.
Standley said she’s filled with regret over the pain she caused Hald’s and McIntyre’s families. (The judge noted that McIntyre, who survived, had to be extricated from the car and life-flighted to a hospital after the crash.)
Standley’s attorney, Jeff Courtney, had urged the judge to grant probation, noting that a probation officer had highlighted Standley’s “great remorse.”
Standley had no record. She has enrolled in substance-abuse therapy — and she has the support of Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, where she attends and volunteers, Courtney said.
“She needs continued treatment for substance abuse and for her mental health, anxiety and depression,” Courtney said. “And that’s not going to happen at (the) York (women’s prison).”
Standley’s family wept quietly as she was led away in handcuffs.
Keri DeForest said she hopes Standley addresses her addiction — in the same way she owned up to Jason’s family in court Tuesday.
“Throughout this whole process, we never heard from her,” DeForest said. “It was a relief to see she does feel a little bit of remorse. She’s going to have to live with this for the rest of her life.”
Batting back tears, DeForest said she has struggled to carry on without her son.
“Nothing’s ever going to change,” Keri DeForest said. “This pain and hurt — it’s never going to go away.”
Asked by a TV reporter what Hald would have wanted Tuesday, Todd DeForest gave a simple reply:
“To be alive.”
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