PRINCETON — A Patoka woman admitted Friday to driving while intoxicated Sept. 1, 2018, causing the deaths of two Princeton men.
Ashley N. Sanders, 25, is scheduled for sentencing before Gibson Superior Court Judge Robert Krieg at 9 a.m. Jan. 30 in the case stemming from the crash on Old 41 north of Princeton that killed James Gasaway and Trevor Watt of Princeton.
Indiana State Police reported Sanders was driving at least 98 miles per hour when her northbound 2013 Chrysler 2000 struck the back of Watt’s Chevrolet Cruze as it was slowed on Old U.S. 41 north of Princeton to make a turn onto County Road 225 North.
Gibson County Prosecutor Michael Cochren said he expects to call seven or more witnesses who will offer victim impact statements for the judge to consider.
Sanders appeared in Gibson Superior Court Friday morning to change her plea in the case to guilty to the two level 4 felony charges of OWI causing death, as well as an infraction count of driving too fast for conditions. Each felony charge carries a potential sentencing range of two to 12 years in prison.
In exchange for her guilty plea, two level 4 felony counts of OWI causing death with methamphetamine and/or cannabinoids in her system will be dismissed, along with infractions of driving left of center, failure to use a safety belt, improper use of the center lane and failure to obey signs/markings while driving.
Her case was scheduled for trial later this month, but attorneys notified the court of a potential plea agreement in late December.
Sanders is on electronically monitored home detention after posting $5,000 cash bond. Judge Krieg told the crowded courtroom gallery that she will remain on home detention until sentencing, over the objection of the prosecution, unless she violates the terms of her release on bond. Those terms include reporting to probation and submitting to random screens as directed by the probation department. She is prohibited from driving or consuming alcohol or drugs. "If she violates the conditions of her bond, she will be in the custody of the sheriff."
Judge Krieg noted that the sentencing range for each felony count is two to 12 years, with an advisory sentence of six years for each count. He said the state does allow some credit for time served on home detention prior to the plea agreement, but it is not calculated at the higher rate for time that would have been served in jail prior to the plea.
The plea deal leaves the sentencing decision to the judge, who will hear testimony and weigh aggravating and mitigating factors. He told Sanders that she will also have the opportunity to make a statement, if she chooses, without being subject to cross-examination. The judge told Sanders the law allows the possibility that the sentence for each count can be served consecutively or concurrently.
"I think it's no surprise to you that you need to be prepared to be incarcerated at the time of sentence," Judge Krieg told Sanders. "You understand, all things being equal, that you are going to the Indiana Department of Corrections."
The judge said that he realizes the family and friends of Gasaway and Watt would be upset that Sanders is on home detention pending sentencing rather than in jail, but said he believes "by this being resolved, it will save a lot of trouble and heartache" that could be a part of the trial process.
Friends and family of the two young men who were killed in the crash were present for Friday's hearing, and several left the courtroom in tears.
— Daily Clarion intern Madison Brooks contributed to this report