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Idaho driver who struck, killed young newlyweds on sidewalk pleads guilty to murder

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Matthew and Amelia Parkinson were newlyweds when they were struck and killed on a Fruitland sidewalk in January. They were walking hand-in-hand on the sidewalk, unaware they were about to be hit. | Submitted photo via Idaho Statesman

Jason Lee Verwer has pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Matthew and Amelia Parkinson, a young couple who were run over on a Fruitland sidewalk as they walked hand-in-hand in January 2018.

Verwer indicated in April that he had reached a plea deal with prosecutors, but ended up backing out.

In Payette County Court on Tuesday, the Idaho Statesman reports he entered guilty pleas. His pleas were not part of a deal, Payette County Prosecutor Ross Pittman said. His attorneys, Kelly Whiting and Jolene Maloney, did not returns calls for comment.

Verwer will be sentenced at 9 a.m. on Jan. 28, 2020 — almost two years to the day that the Parkinsons were killed. He faces 10 years to life in prison and a $15,000 fine for each count.

Jason Lee Verwer | Payette County Jail via Idaho Statesman

Matthew Parkinson, 23, and Amelia Parkinson, 17, who were married at the Payette County Courthouse in December 2017, were killed at about 3 p.m. on Jan. 24, 2018.

Matthew and Amelia Parkinson on their wedding day in December 2017. Submitted photo
Prosecutors said Verwer intentionally struck the Parkinsons on a sidewalk along U.S. 95 in Fruitland, south of the intersection with NW 3rd Street, knocking them in the air and dragging them into the parking lot of Keithly Williams Seeds. Both died in the grisly scene.

His 1980s Chevy Celebrity was traveling at an estimated 62 mph when it struck the Parkinsons from behind.

“He drove straight at them, like he centered the car,” a witness testified at Verwer’s preliminary hearing in March last year.

Verwer did not know the Parkinsons, and prosecutors never determined a motive.

After the crash, Verwer got out of his car and made lewd gestures at a man responding to help the Parkinsons. He was apprehended by a Fruitland police officer. She testified that he did not speak much, other than one-word answers.

Verwer had a mental evaluation after his initial court appearance and found to be competent to participate in his own defense.