Jenna Gruben Morrill finishes the Steamboat 50 ultra marathon in September. She was killed in a car wreck Feb. 13 on U.S. Highway 40.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Jenna Gruben Morrill finishes the Steamboat 50 ultra marathon in September. She was killed in a car wreck Feb. 13 on U.S. Highway 40.

Steamboat driver in fatal crash gets community service

Family of Jenna Gruben Morrill requests harsher punishment during emotional proceeding

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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.'"

— 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.

Comments

Amanda Grimes 3 years, 10 months ago

Emitting negative thoughts and blame is counterintuitive to preserving Jenna's spirit, I respected and looked up to her for her ever positive and loving qualities. This was an extremely unfortunate and tragic ACCIDENT!!! What would Jenna do?.... UNITE...HEAL..LOVE...

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jmm761 3 years, 10 months ago

All of these ladies were and are amazing people, the hatred from Matt's family is despicable and wrong! Everyone Lost here and Everyone will forever be left with the void of Jenna. What is wrong with the world, accidents are just that. They are horrible, unexpected and tear all parties apart. Life is difficult, life is hard, cherish your loved ones everyday.

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Brian Kotowski 3 years, 10 months ago

Don't skimp on winter tires. Put off the flat screen or the iphone, & set aside the $$ for good tread when you need it most.

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1999 3 years, 10 months ago

...like she probably hasn't thought about the wreck every day since.

jeez Miss Morril...get a grip.

your hate is not helping anyone...especially your son

IT WAS AN ACCIDENT???

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Scott Ford 3 years, 10 months ago

In general, the idea that sometimes-bad things just happen, does not compute to most people. When something bad happens to us, we have a strong need to focus our grief and anger. One of the things we tend to do is look for someone, anyone (including higher powers) to blame. This how we are hard-wired as humans.

Blaming is the first step in the grief/loss process as we try to make sense out of something that does not make sense. After a while, even if there is someone or something that can be blamed we discover that assigning blame does not work or even make us feel better.

I would encourage all of us who participate in the Pilot's blog to give all the parties involved in this personal tragedy a great deal of gracious latitude. They have a lot to work through - it is not going to be easy or quick.

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Blythe Terrell 3 years, 10 months ago

We have just updated this story with a statement from Jenna Gruben Morrill's family.

Blythe Terrell City Editor Pilot & Today 871-4234, bterrell@steamboatpilot.com

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Matt Morrill 3 years, 10 months ago

Please do not be so quick to judge. My mother is a wonderful person who has done more to honor Jenna than you can possibly believe. She worked tirelessly on the Celebration of Jenna's life back in May so the community of Steamboat Springs could gather in Jenna's memory. I am proud to be my mother's son, she's the best mom I could ever hope for.

Please understand the difference between facts and a newspaper article. The family asked the office of District Attorney specifically that Angie not be sentenced to jail time. We came together as a group (Jenna's family and mine) and decided that no good would come of Angie spending time in jail. Jenna would not have wanted that. I know and believe that.

Also understand that a defense attorney is there to serve his client. Furthermore, the State Troopers are there to gather evidence when an accident occurs. I stand by the work of the State Troopers, and applaud their attention to detail. No one wanted the case to come to this, but unfortunately the facts of the case dictated this.

I have been attempting to live my life in a way that will honor Jenna. I know Angie is hurting more than words can describe, and my heart goes out to her for that. I know Angie will live every day with Jenna in mind.

Now I ask of the community to let this rest. The case is over, Angie needs to move on with her life, just as we need to move on with ours. As I wrote in the statement to the town, thank you for your support.

Regards,

Matt Morrill

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jmm761 3 years, 10 months ago

Did you know there were 6 accidents the same day? They must have all had bad tires, sounds like the staging of a lawsuit. The car had been checked out, and we all know how intelligent our state troopers are here in Routt County. It was an accident!

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John Withey 3 years, 10 months ago

I don't believe the facts of the investigation ever warranted punishment for being behind the wheel of vehicle involved in a tragic accident. The accusations and work of the state troopers are in question. The letter written by Mrs. Morrill was read in court, and it attacked the character of Angie, as well as contradicted the sentiment that the family was not seeking jail time. Repeatedly Angie was asked how she was honoring Jenna's memory, as if she had no remorse or had simply moved on instantaneoulsy. Angie was excluded from attending Jenna's memorial, and numerous other functions that were meant to celebrate Jenna's life and help those who loved her heal. Compassion for all was needed in this tragic situation. The district attorney and the family came up with the punishment, which i feel was unjust. I think had this gone to trial Angie would of been exonerated of any malice, carelessness, or lack of preparation for winter driving conditions. It was an accident with a tragic outcome, nobody is above being involved in an accident.

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1999 3 years, 10 months ago

I don't believe jenna was ever FORCED to ride in Angies car.

she chose to do do that.

the Morrills have consistantly attacked Angie and blamed her for jennas death.

they should be ashamed. VERY ashamed.

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jrkohnke 3 years, 10 months ago

Matt, your post was beautiful. Jenna's memory has simply inspired me to want to live a better life! Unite....Heal....Love

"Who you are is God's gift to you. What you DO with who you are is your gift back to God" - Dr. Julius Erving

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