Woman accepts deal in accident, could faces 20-plus years in prison
PRESCOTT – Elizabeth Ellen Matthews faces a possible prison term of 20-plus years after accepting the state's plea offer Thursday.
The 39-year-old Prescott woman pleaded guilty to two Class 2 felonies of vehicular manslaughter and a Class 6 felony of vehicular endangerment, which stem from a May 2003 double fatal accident near Paulden.
An elderly Bullhead City couple, Ivan and Olinda Emley, who were visiting their son, John Faulkner, and his family in Paulden and were on the way home, died in the accident.
Although the plea agreement states that the felonies are not repetitive and non-dangerous offenses, each Class 2 felony carries a maximum prison term of 12.5 years if the court finds exceptional circumstances. A Class 6 felony carries a maximum sentence of 1.5 years in prison.
Probation is available for a term not to exceed seven years. The maximum fine the court could impose for each felony is $150,000 plus an 80 percent surcharge. Matthews also agreed that she will pay restitution not to exceed $1 million.
Matthews' attorney, Billy Hicks, did not return calls from the Daily Courier.
The victims' son, Faulkner, said that he and his brother agreed with the plea agreement before Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Mark Ainley offered it to Matthews on June 24. He said he has been waiting for justice for more than a year now.
Although Matthews faces a sentence range between probation and 20-plus years of prison, Faulkner believes a substantial prison term would be justifiable in this case because Matthews admitted she is responsible for causing the accident and killing his parents, he said.
"She should spend a considerable amount of time in prison," said Faulkner, who retired from law enforcement after 23 years of service. "Something needs to be done to show the public that you should pay for consequences of your action."
A grand jury indicted Matthews in early April – 10 months after the fatal accident took place – on seven counts including two counts of manslaughter, three counts of aggravated assault, and one count each of endangerment and criminal damage.
According to a Department of Public Safety report, on May 28, 2003, Matthews was southbound on Highway 89 when she crossed the double yellow line on a blind curve while trying to pass an 18-wheeeler that was hauling a load of flagstone.
While in the northbound lane, her vehicle struck a pickup truck and then Emley's Mercury. Mr. Emley died at the scene, and Mrs. Emley died 10 days later from injuries suffered in the accident.
The pickup driver and a passenger suffered minor injuries. Doctors treated Matthews for minor injuries also before releasing her.
Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Janis Sterling set sentencing for 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 25, but she may reschedule it if the defendant requests a pre-sentence hearing.
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