Road rage suspect sentenced to 120 days
Still unsure of his role in a fatal crash nearly two years ago, a 62-year-old Nevada City man was sentenced Monday to 120 days in jail, with an option of home detention, and three years’ probation.
Bruce D. Kirkpatrick continues to suffer from head injuries and has no memory of the March 7, 2001, crash that killed 22-year-old Jesse Roberts of Grass Valley on Highway 20 near the Nevada County fairgrounds, according to a Nevada County Probation Department report.
The sentence frustrated Roberts’ family members, who thought the case justified a stiffer penalty.
Early on, the California Highway Patrol characterized the crash as a case of road rage. Kirkpatrick and Raymond Herve became engaged in an anger fueled chase after Kirkpatrick cut off Herve on southbound Highway 49 at the Empire Street exit, according to the CHP.
Investigators argued Herve later overtook Kirkpatrick on westbound Highway 20 and quickly braked, causing Kirkpatrick to lose control at roughly 90 mph and skid into the oncoming lane, killing Roberts. Roberts, a computer technician, was returning from helping a paralyzed Penn Valley woman with her computer.
Herve was acquitted by a judge at trial, and Kirkpatrick’s felony vehicular manslaughter charge was reduced to a misdemeanor in a plea bargain.
A probation presentence report says Kirkpatrick has permanent memory loss and continues to suffer from a brain stem injury, a vertebrae fracture near his skull and pubic fractures.
A doctor reported Kirkpatrick has “poor insight to his deficit … (and) memory deficits continue to be a limiting factor to his thinking,” according to the report.
Questioned by the Probation Department, Kirkpatrick said he felt “terrible” about the crash. He initially claimed no responsibility for the crash but later said his speed and loss of control were factors in Roberts’ death.
Efforts to reach Kirkpatrick’s lawyer, Dewey Harpainter, after sentencing were unsuccessful.
Roberts’ family, which had more than 20 supporters in court Monday, gained no solace from the sentencing. His father, Jim Roberts, said he didn’t hate Kirkpatrick but hated missing his only son.
Later, Roberts’ mother, Laura, said her family members’ faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses – offering them the belief they will reunited with Jesse – has helped them cope.
“If we didn’t have that to look forward to, Jim and I wouldn’t have survived this,” she said. “I would have committed suicide. … It’s the Bible that has kept us going.”
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