Judge rejects plea agreement for woman charged with manslaughter in Shelley crash
BLACKFOOT — During a sentencing hearing Thursday, a judge rejected Jericka Evans’ binding plea agreement that would have placed her on probation for two counts of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.
Evans was set to be sentenced Thursday morning for the deaths of 7-year-old Ellowyn Faith Evans and 24-year-old Jean Hurrle. Ellowyn and Hurrle died Oct. 5 in a multi-vehicle crash in Shelley. During the hearing, family members of the victims offered emotional testimony about how they had been impacted by the deaths.
Sentencing proceedings came to a halt when Magistrate Judge Scott Hansen rejected a binding plea agreement that had been previously negotiated between the prosecution and defense.
A binding plea agreement requires a judge to abide by the terms of the agreement. If a judge decides not to abide by those terms, the defendant can withdraw their guilty plea, and the case will be scheduled for a jury trial.
Had Hansen accepted the plea agreement, he would have been bound to sentence Evans to a maximum of four years of supervised probation. That would include two years for each count of manslaughter served one after the other.
Neither the prosecutor or defense attorney was expecting the judge’s action.
“We worked for some time to get an agreement between the two parties with the input of the victims’ families as to what would be appropriate,” Evans’ attorney, Allen Browning, told EastIdahoNews.com.
Bingham County Prosecutor Paul Rogers said he was surprised by the judge’s decision.
“There’s something that he wasn’t comfortable with. I don’t know if we can re-create that (plea agreement) to make it something he’s comfortable with or if we’re just going to have to go to trial,” Rogers said.
Hansen did not explain why he decided to reject the plea agreement.
Evans withdrew her guilty plea, and a jury trial is scheduled for Aug. 7. (Due to COVID-19, the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that jury trials are not to resume until August.)
Idaho State Police report Ellowyn Evans and Hurrle were killed when Jericka Evans, driving a 2014 Ford F350, slammed into the back of a 2012 Nissan Sentra driven by Caitlyn Evans on U.S. Highway 91.
Ellowyn and Hurrle were both in the Nissan with Caitlyn Evans. Caitlyn is Ellowyn’s sister. There is no relationship between Evans sisters and Jericka Evans.
Caitlyn had been slowing in the northbound lane for a stopped 2016 Ford F350 driven by Michael Chaffin, 65. He stopped for traffic and was attempting to make a left turn as Taylor France, 42, in a 2016 Toyota Tacoma stopped behind Chaffin. After the rear impact with Jericka’s F350, the Nissan smashed into the stopped trucks.
A 2001 Ford F150 driven southbound by Guadalupe Vega, 37, then collided head-on with the Nissan and the Toyota.
Browning said Jericka took her eyes off the road for a split second to adjust her radio. When she looked back, she saw the cars in front of her. In the frantic moments leading up to the crash, Jericka accidentally slammed on the gas pedal instead of the brakes.
“She wasn’t acting recklessly. She wasn’t drunk. She wasn’t on a cell phone. She wasn’t under the influence of drugs. It was an act of inadvertence with tragic consequences that are incredibly, incredibly unfortunate,” Browning said during Thursday’s hearing.
When first responders arrived, they rushed Jericka Evans, Caitlyn Evans, Ellowyn Evans, and Jean Hurrle to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center by ambulance. Both Hurrle and Ellowyn died while at the hospital.