Ex-cop pleads guilty in fatal wreck
Vail, CO Colorado
GRAND JUNCTION ” A former cop charged in the drunk-driving deaths of two Mesa State College students pleaded guilty Friday to three of 22 charges he’s facing.
Patrick Strawmatt, 42, of Westminster, faces up to 72 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide and a single count of vehicular eluding, in the March 22 crash on Interstate 70 that killed Jacob Brock of Eagle and Jennifer Kois of Brighton ” both were 19.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Strawmatt said, when asked by District Judge Brian Flynn why he wanted to plead guilty.
“I don’t want to put these people through a long, arduous process.”
Strawmatt, however, pleaded not guilty to 19 other counts including the two charges that could earn him a life sentence ” first-degree murder.
Flynn, who ordered Strawmatt be held without bond, scheduled a trial to start Dec. 3.
David Eisner, Strawmatt’s public defender, told the judge there are active plea negotiations with District Attorney Pete Hautzinger’s office on the remaining charges.
Hautzinger said the talks will continue.
“I’m not going to do anything the families don’t want me to do,” Hautzinger said. “Their interest is in seeing him spending the rest of his life in prison.”
According to Strawmatt’s arrest affidavit, 911 dispatchers around 10 p.m. March 22 received a report of a drunk driver at mile marker 49 on I-70 near Palisade. A sports utility vehicle was weaving, creeping westbound at 30 mph.
The affidavit said troopers watched the vehicle weave across the right and left lanes, occasionally hitting the median.
When a traffic stop was attempted, the driver allegedly made an obscene hand gesture to officers and raced away ” still weaving and hitting speeds of 120 mph.
Further west on I-70, Kois and Brock were riding in the right-hand lane in a 2001 Saturn ” Strawmatt’s 2007 Toyota 4Runner allegedly slammed into the back of the Saturn. The impact sent both vehicles off the right side of road, rolling several times at about mile marker 36 near Clifton.
Tests confirmed Strawmatt had a blood-alcohol level of .29 ” three times the legal limit in Colorado ” that night.
Strawmatt had been arrested a month earlier after ramming a car driven by Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener, before punching the sheriff.