Judge hands down six-year prison sentence

PRESCOTT ­ Sentencing her to six years in prison, a judge said on Wednesday that it would be inappropriate to reinstate Elizabeth Matthews on probation for killing a Bullhead City couple in a May 2003 accident on Highway 89.

"The defendant was clearly at fault," Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Dean Trebesch said. "There could have been easily four deaths that day Š She must be held accountable."

Authorities arrested Matthews in April and revoked her probation after she admitted in writing to using drugs on two occasions. On Dec. 21, 2004, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Janis Sterling sentenced her to seven years of intensive probation for two counts of vehicular manslaughter, Class 2 felonies and one count of vehicular endangerment, a Class 6 felony.

As a term of that probation, the 41-year old defendant received six months in jail.

During the sentencing on Wednesday, Matthews told the judge that she never intended to hurt anybody.

"I can't bring them (the victims) back," she said, adding that she knows that there are rules and that she broke them because of her addiction. "I have (a) desire to stay clean."

Matthews' lawyer, Billy Hicks, favored probation reinstatement with some jail time for his client in his attempt to convince the court that his client deserves another chance ­ and that chance would be a drug rehab center. He said her family has means to send her to a treatment center.

"Liz has relapsed," Hicks said. "Experts say that is a part of recovery. People can get clean and sober and stay clean and soberŠ She needs help."

He also said Matthews has been very remorseful about the deaths of Ivan and Olinda Emley.

"It has eaten her alive," he said.

Hwever, the victims' family and Prosecutor Jay Ireland disagreed that Matthews deserves another chance.

Dennis Faulkner, the victims' son, said that if Matthews truly wanted to stay sober she had plenty of opportunities to do it.

"She has had time to do this," he said, reflecting on her years of drug abuse. "She has money to do it."

Alice Faulkner, the victims' daughter-in-law, said that a knock on the door at 1:30 a.m. on May 28, 2003, changed their lives forever.

"Thank goodness that she didn't kill those two men that she hit first," she said. "It was her choice to pass that truck."

Alice's husband, John Faulkner, asked the court to do the right thing and send Matthews to prison because she already had too many chances to turn her life around, and she failed.

"If you sit in an 8-by-10 cell for a few years, it may hit you," he said. "A treatment program doesn't seem to do the trick for you."

Ireland asked the court to impose two consecutive sentences on manslaughter charges for Matthews because she failed numerous times to make the right decisions.

Knowing that she would face a mandatory prison term and that her only child would grow up without her mother, "She chose to break the law again Š She chose methamphetamine," he said.

Contact the reporter at mburic@prescottaz.com