[Update Nov 2017: moving ahead in Chandler Muni on misdy charges, see below]
[Update as of Oct 21, 2017; no charges, no nothing; nothing on caselookup??]
[Update May 2018; penalties for 28-672/5/6 were strengthened in response to this incident]
[FINAL Update May 2019; driver sentenced, see below]
Nov 2016: A driver was arrested after a collision at crosswalk left one woman dead and two small children seriously injured. The intersection has a signal; police, based on some witnesses, believe the driver ran a red light when he struck the people in the crosswalk crossing Ray Road at College Dr (also known as Ponderosa Dr) in Chandler, AZ. (it may be very near the boundary of Tempe).
Oh, and the driver was driving on suspended license, police say.
Police are investigating if the driver did indeed cause the crash by running a red light; which would make him eligible for the slightly more serious charges of 28-672 (I mean slightly more serious than the civil traffic ticket for running a red light 28-645. A violation of ‘672 is a minor misdemeanor); but additionally if his license was suspended for certain reasons, he would be eligible for the somewhat more more serious charges of 28-676 / 28-675 (serious injury / death) ; which are a class 5 / 4 felony. More about 28-672,5,6 here.
There are a number of traffic court entries for the driver over the years; though none indicated conviction of DUI; there were two DUI dismissals where the driver plead guilty to reckless driving (TR-2000004847, TR-2009003241 gulty reckless driving, and TR-2005004583 Dui/dismissed all Flagstaff). And a number of other traffic-related tickets.
The fatal victim has been identified as Pamela Hesselbacher, the two childred (a 2 and 3 year old) “remained in critical condition at the hospital on Monday…”. That news story didn’t give any updates on the suspect’s situation.
Here’s another tidbit:
Police investigators are trying to assess if he ran a red light, with Lieutenant Scott Veach saying, “Preliminary information indicates that they had the walk sign and that the light was red when the driver came through. We are still sorting that out through witnesses, but the first two witnesses we talked to confirm that.”
This is a Adot incident # 3201832.
Nothing notable; it is as described in the news reports: the driver is said to have disregarded a signal, striking the victims who were crossing in a marked crosswalk.
But it is an unusual combination because it’s a fatal crash that involved a (not fatally injured) bicyclist, the fatal counts are askew. There were bicyclists in 31 fatal collisions in 2016 and 31 bicyclists were killed; though one of the incidents involved a double-fatality.
A slightly newer news story explains: “…because Epperlein is suspected of causing death and injury, while on a suspended license, it’s considered a felony.” thus he’s awaiting charges…
It was reported in April 2017 Family pleading for justice after mother killed in Chandler crosswalk last year, that Maricopa County Attorney declined to bring any charges. The victim’s mother naively said:
I really assumed that if someone killed someone while driving, they were going to jail… There was no question in my mind, and to find out that’s not the case, other people need to know this too.
The last bit in the news story, “Prosecutors said they were returning the case back to the city court for possible misdemeanor charges” presumably refers to 28-672 due to the red-light-running. They continue to say he was driving on a suspended license (“Police said the suspect, William Epperlein, ran a red light and was driving on a suspended license.”), which should qualify charges under 28-675 (an F4 version of 28-672); and was presumable what the felony referred to in the previous news stories is/was. HOWEVER, as of this writing there doesn’t appear to have been any charges (last checked caselookup 10/21/2017)
28-672 charges must be brought within two year (and IIRC, felony under 28-675 would be even longer) so they’r not out of time or anything but still; what’s the holdup? The news report in April 2017 did not address the (felony) 28-675, a charge that would have had to be brought by the county attorney.
As things grind on, the defendant and victims family were in Chandler muni court late Nov 2017 on misdemenaors, presumably 28-672 and driving on suspended license:
County prosecutors declined to prosecute the case because it “did not have the evidence necessary to try it as a felony,” according to Kieran.
Chandler police said both driving on a suspended license and running a red light are misdemeanor crimes.
ABC15 did some research and discovered that the suspect in this case, William Epperlein, has a history of bad driving. From DUI’s to driving on a suspended license, Epperlein had received multiple traffic citations in the past.
Once county prosecutors declined to prosecute the case, the city filed misdemeanor charges against Epperlein that included three counts of an accident with a serious injury/death and one count of driving on a suspended driver’s license….
Hesselbacher’s mother Jody Kieran addressed the judge.
“Mr. Epperlein has a long history of reckless driving and ignoring suspensions. Time and time again the justice system has failed to make Mr. Epperlein accountable for the actions,” said Kieran.
She added that had the courts been stricter with Epperlein in the past, her daughter may still be alive today.
The [a-word deleted] happened around 6 p.m. Saturday afternoon near College Avenue and Ray Road.
…The driver was arrested for allegedly causing death by use of a car while driving on a suspended license and may have run a red light.
Police have identified the driver as William Joseph Epperlein.
“Preliminary information indicates that they had the walk sign and that the light was red when the driver came through. We haven’t confirmed that yet. We are still sorting that out through witnesses, but the first two witnesses we talked to confirmed that,” said Lt. Scott Veach, with the Chandler Police Department.
of this particular case (and not until March 2019!) was 30 days in jail, which according the news article is the maximum (for this classification of misdemeanor), and also “$30,000 in restitution, the highest amount possible, on the misdemeanor charges of causing an accident with serious injuries or death and driving on a suspended license. He was fined $1,869; his license was suspended for 180 days; and he was ordered to perform 240 hours of community service. LaFleur also placed Epperlein on probation for one year”.
Legislative changes, see immediately below, if in effect would have allowed him to have been charged in county superior court under 28-675 which bumps the classification from a class 3 misdemeanor up to a felony 3 or 4; and thus could yield longer incarceration.
Changes to the law came about as a direct result of this case. The AG notes that:
“Despite a long history of reckless driving, multiple DUI charges and failure to comply with court orders, the driver was still on the road. Due to loopholes and laws with no teeth, this individual will pay the same penalty as a person who litters within 20 feet of a highway.”
I watched the videos (click on the “videos” tab) for the bill; they were more interesting than expected. The mother (and grandmother) of the victim(s) gave her heartfelt testimony, as expected; that it shouldn’t be OK to kill and maim w/o any serious consequences, there should be detterence for this sort of behavior, and so forth. Less expected was at both hearings Margaret “Peggy” Rubach, an aunt to the victim (and incidentally, a former mayor of Mesa); who had a very detailed knowledge of the laws and the existing insurance “loophole”; which prevented Epperlein from being charged under 28-675/6, which would have been a felony; leaving only 28-672.
Anyway, she noted that some language changes for 28-675/6 were lifted from the 2014 version of Joey’s law which stiffened penalties for hit-and-run’s 28-661.
I still don’t understand exactly what the Epperlein loophole is; but something about how yes his license was suspended for DUI but he failed to have “high value”(?) insurance as required by (other) law. In any event the big legal brains at MCAO say that they can’t charge Epperlein with a 675/676 felony (or any other felony); thus kicking it back to the city.
This law, “Pam’s Law” passed mostly overwhelmingly, see history of 28-672/5/6. A Senator Mendez (D-LD26 / Tempe) on the Senate Transpo committee (the lone no vote on the committee; and one of three no vote in the Senate COW, 27-3) had a real bee in his bonnet about how this shouldn’t be a strict liability law; and also he thought it should guarantee a jury trial. (but it would seem there will or could be jury trials? 675/6 are already felonies; and I’m thinking a misdemeanor class 1 would already qualify). He also tried to run a floor amendment that would have inserted “recklessly” instead of just violates. This would have in effect neutered the law entirely since proving mental state is nearly impossible.
In the floor discussion of his amendment, Mendez said “so I guess a lot of this depends on how you view car accidents… whether you believe these are accidents at all or maybe you believe everyone is guilty”.
Also note that, unlike a civil judgement, criminal restitution is not dischargeable through bankruptcy.
There were very few registered against bill, one was the lobbyist for the nonprofit org David’s Hope, “Arizona Mental Health and Criminal Justice Coalition”, and another group AZ ATTORNEYS FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE; and a handful of individuals.
Here’s an ABC15 news piece released when the law was signed by Ducey.
The victim advocate site pamsrights.com lists the driver’s prior encounters with the justice system as (retrieved 10/24/2019), commenting that “It was only a matter of time before William Epperlein’s numerous DUI , reckless driving and excessive speeding charges would lead to a tragic ending”:
2015- failure to have auto insurance 2012- DUI, vehicle registration not current, fail to comp drug test 2010- speeding, failure to complete traffic school 2009- extreme DUI, reckless driving 2007- obscene conduct 2005- extreme DUI 2002- excessive speed 2001- failure to yield 2000- DUI, reckless driving, unsafe lane change, excessive speed 1999- disorderly conduct 1997- theft