PRESCOTT – Before a judge sentenced him to a term of intensive probation on Friday, a 16-year-old Chino Valley High School student apologized to the two families of the victims who died in a March fatal car accident in Chino Valley.
"Good friends are hard to come by," said Jacob Dunbar, who recently admitted to a delinquent act after the state charged him with a number of felony counts in connection with the crash. "They were like brother and sister to me … I can't tell you how sorry I am."
Dunbar will be on intensive probation until his 18th birthday (in June 2005) after the court found him responsible of two counts of negligent homicide (Class 4 felonies) and two counts of reckless endangerment (Class 6 felonies).
On March 15, Dunbar was eastbound on Cedar Heights Road in a 2001 Mazda Tribute when he lost control of the vehicle, which left the roadway and rolled over several times. Four teen-agers were in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
Mark "Markie" Bagley Jr., 16, died en route to a Phoenix hospital. Jennifer Murdock, 15, who suffered severe trauma to her head, died a day later at the Flagstaff Medical Center.
Sara Sheese, 14, survived the accident, although she suffered severe trauma to her head as well. Dunbar and his 14-year-old brother Matthew suffered minor injuries.
Police later determined that Dunbar drove at least 45 to 50 miles above the posted 15-mph speed limit on the dirt road.
During the sentencing, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge David Mackey said that based on police reports he found that Dunbar's conduct was reckless, and said he could face 30 days in jail if he doesn't comply with the terms of his probation. He will also serve 80 hours of community service, half of which he must devote to a research project that deals with the inherent danger of speeding.
Mackey said Dunbar must make arrangements with local school districts to conduct an hour-long presentation about his project, with the first 10 minutes including some details of the March 15 tragedy.
Mackey also ordered that his driving privilege be revoked at this time.
Before the judge sentenced Dunbar, parents of the victims shared emotional testimonies with the court.
Markie's mom, Darla White, wept as she read her statement about how difficult it has been for her and her family not to have their son around.
"Our lives will never be the same," she said. "Do we want to be vengeful? No. We are trying to be understanding and cordial."
However, she said, she doesn't believe that Dunbar understands the seriousness of his act. She asked the judge to do what is just and to make sure that her son and Jennifer didn't die in vain.
Markie's dad, Mark Bagley Sr., said, "nothing that happens in this court will bring my son back.
"I do not want Jake's life ruined," he said sobbing. "Things will not be better if he is incarcerated. I know he didn't do this on purpose."
Markie's brother, Don Newby, said he knows from reading Markie's notes that "Jake was his best friend."
He asked the judge not to restrict contact between the victims' families and Dunbar because they are willing to help him deal with the consequences of his action.
Jennifer's dad, Charles Murdock, said their house used to look like a Girl Scout camp. Now, however, it is a quiet place.
"We have a big void in our lives," he said. " We do not want revenge for him (Dunbar), but (for him) to understand what he has done. We want something good to come out of this."
Mackey told Dunbar's mother, Maryanne, that he believes her son is an extremely strong and resilient young man and that he will be able to fulfill the terms of probation despite her concerns.
"You can show them (the victims' families) that they didn't lose their children without you learning a lesson," Mackey said.
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