Updated June 24, 2010 at 11:14 a.m.
Statement from the family of Jenna Gruben Morrill
"Jenna had a smile for everyone. No one was left out of her world. She inspired, encouraged, and gathered people together. Jenna had the ability to make everyone feel special. Needless to say, we will miss Jenna for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, nothing can bring her back. But, if any good can come of this tragedy, it is that people have the ability to save the life of someone they love.
"We all bear the burden of personal responsibility for the things we do. Living in a remote mountain environment necessitates making the choice to drive in harsh conditions. If you make the choice to do so, be equipped to deal with the possible dangers of disparate driving conditions. Understand how to maintain your vehicle; be aware of changing road conditions and how to operate your vehicle under these conditions; make sure you have proper tread on your tires. These are just a few of the many ways you can be prepared to alleviate the inherent risks of driving Colorado's mountain roads. Ultimately, the responsibility of maintaining your car is yours, and yours alone. Understand the consequences of choosing to overlook these important facts.
"Jenna loved Steamboat Springs. She had a deep commitment to her profession, assisting children with special needs. Jenna was passionate about so many things: her friends, her family, her husband, her job, and her hobbies. People like Jenna don't come along every day, she was truly unique. Jenna was an integral part of this town in so many ways. That fact is obvious by the amount of support that we have received from the community over the past four months. Jenna's family would like to acknowledge the outpouring of support from the community of Steamboat Springs. The list is simply too long to recognize individually, but know that your sincere efforts and compassion are so very appreciated. Without the help of all of you, this certainly would be impossible.
"Thank you, and as Jenna would say: 'Explore your world with arms open.'"
Steamboat Springs Angelica Mangiardi, the driver in the crash that killed Steamboat Springs resident Jenna Gruben Morrill, was sentenced to 70 hours of community service after pleading no contest to a charge of careless driving Wednesday morning.
Routt County Judge James Garrecht also ordered her to work with autistic or special needs children during the service, keeping in line with Gruben Morrill’s work as a speech pathologist with local schools.
Mangiardi, Gruben Morrill and Cara Marrs, all friends, were in an SUV between Milner and Hayden on Feb. 13 when the SUV fishtailed in bad weather and hit an oncoming car. No one else was seriously injured in the crash.
In an emotional proceeding at the Routt County Justice Center, Mark Freirich, the attorney for Gruben Morrill’s family, read requests for harsher punishment, including possibly jail or 100 hours of community service.
Mangiardi, represented by attorney Adam Mayo, declined to address the court, but her voice broke as she answered questions from the judge.
Gruben Morrill’s husband, Matt Morrill, also was in the courtroom. The two were married last year.
Mother-in-law Stephanie Morrill wrote that she was upset that Mangiardi did not accept more responsibility for the crash and asked that Mangiardi be sent to jail.
“Well, I wanted you to get jail time. To sit there and think about everything Matt and Jenna have lost,” Stephanie Morrill wrote in a letter to the court.
Gruben Morrill’s mother, Cheri Stanton, said she did not want to see Mangiardi go to jail but that she does want restitution from Mangiardi for any costs not covered by insurance. She said it was Mangiardi’s responsibility to keep the car safe.
“Angie and Jenna were friends, because of that there was a responsibility to make sure that anyone who traveled in her car remained safe. That includes maintaining safe tires and traveling at a speed which would be safe for the conditions,” Stanton wrote. “I would like Angie to receive community service. I would like her to walk in Jenna’s shoes, so she can see what was taken from the autism community due to her death. I also believe this would help Angie begin healing from this devastating accident which took the life of her friend Jenna.”
The crash report from Colorado State Patrol Trooper Tonja Cowan states that witnesses said Mangiardi’s car and the oncoming car were traveling below the speed limit, possibly at 40 miles per hour. Cowan concludes that even so, the speed was too fast for conditions. Cowan also took measurements of the tire treads, and Mangiardi’s SUV had “inadequate tire tread on all four tires.”
Mayo said the treads were not problematic enough to violate the statute per se, and he said Mangiardi had her car checked at a Steamboat mechanic two weeks before the crash. Mayo said the tires were part of that inspection.
Garrecht said additional community service hours would not make much of a difference, and he mostly kept to an agreement reached between Mayo and the Routt County District Attorney’s Office.
“These are probably my least favorite cases because there’s absolutely nothing I’m going to do that will make anybody whole in this case, and that’s always frustrating because that’s something we try to do, but when there’s a death involved, that just can’t happen,” Garrecht said.
A charge of unsafe tires was dismissed. Mangiardi also was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay a fine of $500 plus fines and charges of about $300.