Jail, but no prison for drunk driver in fatal Missouri Heights crash
Jesse Lloyd, responsible for a drunk driving rollover crash that killed Tyler Ribich, 16, and injured two others, was sentenced to six months jail and hundreds of hours of community service Friday.
“Words cannot express how deeply sorry I am for taking Tyler’s life,” Lloyd said in a statement during the sentencing hearing.
Lloyd previously pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and two counts of reckless driving for his role in a May 3, 2019, crash in the Missouri Heights neighborhood near Carbondale.
More than 30 of Lloyd’s friends and family sat in the courtroom. Many of them had written letters to Judge John Neiley about Lloyd’s character.
In vivid detail, prosecutor Denton Walker described the injuries sustained by the passengers, and how Tyler Ribich, 16, was ejected from the vehicle and crushed by the rolling car.
The group had been partying and drinking, and it was Lloyd’s idea to take a joyride, Walker said.
Lloyd told police after the crash that he had taken five or six shots of vodka before driving. Lloyd was driving approximately 75 mph in a 25 mph zone, Walker said, and the car rolled over on a sharp turn.
Another passenger, Joel Rothman, then 19, was ejected from the vehicle and sustained serious injuries.
Lloyd, 18, and the other two passengers were wearing seatbelts and were not ejected. Lloyd had a breath alcohol content of 0.15 after the crash, which is nearly double the legal driving limit, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in Garfield County District Court.
“I considered showing some of those photos (of the crash), but I decided that bordered on cruel and unusual punishment, they were so ghastly,” Walker told the judge.
Walker said a prison sentence to the department of corrections of five years would serve as an example to other young people that driving under the influence could mean prison time.
“My main objective here is to ask the court to do everything that it can to decrease the likelihood of this type of accident from happening in the future,” Walker said.
No one from Ribich’s family attended the sentencing. Walker said their grief was still so great that he had not even been able to communicate with them effectively.
Both of Lloyd’s parents expressed condolences to the Ribich family in their statements.
“I want them to know how deeply sorry and grieved we are for the loss of their son Tyler,” Michelle Lloyd said.
Underage parties are common to the area, said father Ron Lloyd.
“I believe other young people would listen to Jesse and learn from his mistakes. I do not believe locking him up would do anything to resolve this tragedy or serve our community,” he said.
Lloyd’s psychologist Craig Angus said that over the eight months since the crash, Jesse has shown improvement and has never denied his responsibility for the tragedy.
Lloyd was able to complete his high school courses and receive his diploma, has started taking online college courses and is working for a health food manufacturer in Willits, Angus said.
Angus and Lloyd’s attorney, Lawson Wills, said a prison sentence to the Department of Corrections would be too harsh a sentence, and could harm Lloyd’s rehabilitation.
“The thing I really want the court to know today is that this is a young man that understands the gravity of his actions,” Wills said.
Lloyd used his statement before the judge to talk about his friendship with Ribich. The pair had algebra classes and men’s choir together, and became good friends.
Ribich was “pure intelligence” and spread joy to everyone around him, Lloyd said.
“I see Tyler every day, and I expect to for the rest of my life,” Lloyd said.
“While I do not know the (Ribich) family, I cannot imagine their pain,” he said.
Lloyd’s six-month sentence to Garfield County jail could end up being about half that with good behavior and time-served credit, Neiley said.
Lloyd was also sentenced to complete 300 hours of useful public service and 30 hours with the Workenders work release program.
One of Lloyd’s community service activities could include speaking to high school students around the region to educate them about the dangers of drunk driving, something Lloyd is willing to do, according to Wills.
Lloyd was ordered to turn himself into the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday to begin his jail sentence.
“This is a very grim sentencing,” Neiley said. “I’ve fretted over it for quite a while, but I sincerely hope you can get something good out of it.”