Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Woman pleads guilty to vehicular manslaughter

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County prosecuting attorney has dropped second-degree murder charges against Cheryl Marie Wise, originally accused of killing two people in a deliberate head-on collision, in exchange for guilty pleas to vehicular manslaughter.

Wise, 24, of Twin Falls, entered the pleas during a hearing in 5th District Court in Hailey on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

The charges stemmed from an accident that occurred July 23 on Highway 93 near Carey. Wise's Chevrolet Blazer crossed the centerline and drove head-on into a Chevrolet Suburban driven by Bellevue resident Francisco Rojas, 37. The accident killed Rojas and his 9-year-old son, Julian.

In addition to the murder charges, Wise was charged with aggravated DUI, a felony.

Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas originally contended that Wise had deliberately caused the accident to re-create a similar crash that had occurred three days previous and had killed a man with whom she had been romantically involved. However, in a later interview, Thomas said it would be difficult to prove that Wise caused the accident deliberately. Furthermore, he said, even vehicular manslaughter carries a stiff penalty.

Wise will be sentenced on Jan. 13, 2006. During last week's hearing, Thomas told the court he will recommend a prison sentence of 15 years per count, with 10 years fixed, a fine of $10,000 with $5,000 suspended and a civil penalty of $5,000. He said the state will not object to the prison sentences running concurrently.

Before Wise entered her plea, Judge John Butler told her that she could be responsible for paying child support to Rojas' surviving children until they turn 18.

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