Avon man convicted of leaving scene of fatal crash sentenced to probation | VailDaily.com

Avon man convicted of leaving scene of fatal crash sentenced to probation

Tyler Walker said not a day goes by that he doesn’t think of what happened on December night last year

An Avon man who recently pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident involving death, a class 3 felony, was sentenced Wednesday to four years of supervised probation.

Tyler Walker accepted a plea deal in August that recommended sentencing within the charge’s “presumptive range” — the typical range barring any aggravating or mitigating factors — of 4 to 12 years in the Colorado State Department of Corrections.

Walker was initially charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury, a Class 4 felony, after he struck Andrew Dolan, 46, with his car on the evening of Dec. 5.

When Dolan died of his injuries on Dec. 27, the charge was upgraded to the class 3 felony, according to charging documents for the case.

Letters written by Dolan’s family were read aloud at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing by Deputy District Attorney Amy Padden.

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“There’s nothing the offender can do to assuage our loss,” Dolan’s father, Frank Dolan, wrote in his letter. “He has destroyed a wonderful life and the grief we feel now will be forever with us.”

The victims requested that Walker be sentenced to time in prison, do community service and write a letter to Dolan’s family and friends that reflects on the consequences of his actions.

The ultimate sentence of four years of supervised probation requires him to continue counseling and maintain employment, Judge Paul R. Dunkelman ruled.

Dunkelman also sentenced Walker to 30 days of detention in the Eagle County jail and honored the family’s request for him to write them a letter. However, he asked that Walker work with probation officials on the letter, so it’s written to serve the family’s healing process.

Walker also will be required to complete 120 hours of community service.

Walker’s father attended the hearing in person and came before Dunkelman to ask for a merciful sentence for his son, who he said has been dealing with severe mental health issues since December.

“The fact that my son Tyler has to live the rest of his life being aware of what happened that evening — that very dark evening, on that road that a man lost his life — in and of itself is a punishment that I would think would surpass anything that this court could extend,” Walker’s father said.

Walker’s longtime friend also spoke at the hearing, urging Dunkelman to sentence Walker to probation, saying he does not deserve to go to jail.

“I know beyond a doubt that had (Walker) seen Andrew Dolan crossing the street, he would have done everything to avoid hitting him,” the woman said. “And more importantly, had he known he had actually hit a person, I know that he would have stopped.”

Dunkelman also heard from Mykola Ognevyuk, a close friend who Walker called that night to help him get back to the scene about 20 minutes after he initially left. Ognevyuk said Walker is “a very kind person.”

Finally, defense attorney Jesse Wiens told the judge that Walker wanted to make a statement.

“I want to say that I accept full responsibility for what this action has done to a lot of people around,” Walker said, before getting choked up. “I can hardly speak but, um, yeah … I would never hope that anybody would be driving down the road and hit somebody; it’s the worst possible thing that anybody could have happen to them.”

Nearly a year after that December night, Walker still struggled to explain the details of what happened as he was driving down U.S. Highway 6 in Avon. Everything happened so fast, but he maintained that he did not know he had hit a person and would not have driven off if he had.

At the moment, Walker thought a large rock had hit his car, according to statements he made to police the night of the incident. When he returned to the parking lot of his home he realized he had struck something larger — perhaps a deer or a bear — because of damage to the hood that he could not see while he was driving, Walker said Wednesday.

“That is the last thing that anybody would ever want to happen — is to hit somebody in their car — and that’s not where my head went first,” he said. “I should have stopped, regardless of what happened, I should have stopped immediately.”

Walker said that not a day goes by that he doesn’t wish he had stopped at a different gas station or stayed at his friend’s house even five minutes longer, so that he would not have hit Dolan with his car that night.

“I can never, ever go back in time, and there’s nothing I can possibly do to get (Dolan) back,” Walker said as he began to cry. “I’m sincerely sorry to the families.”

After Walker was finished speaking, Dunkelman acknowledged that the case is tragic on several levels, but primarily for Dolan’s family and friends.

“A man lost his life and that’s tragic,” Dunkelman said. “There are no words that anybody can say to properly address that.”

Dunkelman acknowleged that the Dolans might feel that a probationary sentence is inadequate, but Dunkelman said that keeping Walker in the community, where his support structures are, will give him “the chance to learn and move on.”

“I do want to just finish with, again, the condolences of the whole community for your loss,” Dunkelman said to the Dolan family after he handed down the sentence.

Andrew Dolan’s father, Frank, said he “concur[s]” with the sentence Dunkelman handed down, although he had initially hoped for more jail time. Frank Dolan told the judge through the chat field of WebEx, the court’s video streaming platform, that he does not harbor “bad feelings for the defendant.”

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