ST. GEORGE – A St. George man was sentenced to 90 days in jail in 5th District Court Thursday for his part in a fatal rollover that left one person dead.
Mark James Wyler, 22, appeared in court before Judge Jeffrey Wilcox with attorney Michael Lastowski for an arraignment and resolution hearing Thursday afternoon that ultimately resulted in a sentencing.
Wyler had faced a third-degree felony charge of automobile homicide, along with a class B misdemeanor for driving with a suspended license and an infraction for improper lane use.
A plea deal reduced the felony charge to a class A misdemeanor for negligent auto homicide. Wyler pleaded guilty to the amended charge.
The charges stem from a June 7 rollover accident that killed 20-year-old Cierra Perez, of Santa Clara.
Deputy Washington County Attorney Ryan Shaum said the state would usually ask that the defendant serve a year in jail for a class A misdemeanor. However, following an emotional plea from Cierra Perez’s mother asking the court not to send Wyler to jail, Shaum said he would leave any jail time to the court’s discretion.
Wilcox ultimately sentenced Wyler to a year in jail, yet stayed the sentence in favor of Wyler serving 90 days in jail with credit for 32 days already served.
He will also submit to a mental health and alcohol evaluation and be fined $2,500. Following the jail term, Wyler will be placed on 18 months supervised probation.
Perez’s mother ask for leniency
Before Wilcox pronounced sentencing, Christina Perez, Cierra Perez’s mother, addressed the court and asked Wilcox not to send Wyler back to jail.
“I really ask you to please not send him to jail,” Christina Perez said with a voice that become shaky with emotion. “… He’s got a lifetime of punishment he’s going to be giving himself.”
She said she hadn’t met her daughter’s boyfriend in person until after the accident. Despite that, she said, Wyler had made her daughter happy in the short time they were together.
Christina Perez also told the court how she had paid Wyler’s bail to get out of jail so he could attend Cierra Perez’s funeral.
“I really don’t want him to go back to jail,” Christina Perez said. “He’s going to live with this the rest of his life.”
According to the Utah High Patrol and court documents, on June 7, between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m., the black Chevrolet Blazer Wyler and Cierra Perez were in went off Spring Road, a dirt road near Toquerville Falls, and went off a 100-foot cliff. The SUV rolled multiple times down the cliff-face and finally came to rest in a ravine.
Wyler survived and remained in the SUV while Cierra Perez was ejected and later pronounced dead at the scene. It was Wyler who called 911 the following morning and told dispatch that he believed his girlfriend was dead.
UHP investigators determined Wyler had been driving with a suspended license, was possibly speeding when he misjudged a turn on the dirt road and went over the cliff, and was allegedly intoxicated at the time of the accident, according to court documents.
Faulty vehicle a factor?
Christina Perez also said she was mad at her daughter for having bought a vehicle that shouldn’t have been on the road. The SUV hadn’t passed a safety inspection, she said.
Potential safety issues with the SUV hadn’t been heavily investigated by the UHP, Lastowski said, and that was a mistake.
“That’s a big contributor – whether or not this vehicle should have been on the road,” Lastowski said.
Shaum said it was the first time he had ever heard of any issues surrounding the SUV. Lastowski said Christina Perez had the details available, yet Shaum said there had been some difficulty in contacting her by phone prior to the hearing.
Whatever the case, Wilcox said, any potential litigation surrounding the SUV is a civil matter and not one to be hashed out before the court at that time.
A message needs to be sent
“What a terrible tragedy,” Wilcox said as he addressed Wyler prior to issuing his sentence.
Wilcox said he was extremely impressed with Christina Perez’s forgiving attitude. However, he said, a message needed to be sent.
“There was an accident that involved excessive speed and someone still died,” he said, adding people shouldn’t be driving with suspended licenses or speeding on mountain roads. “It was a mistake that led to a death,” he said.
- Details released in fatal Toquerville rollover; driver now charged with automobile homicide
- Man charged with negligent homicide in fatal Toquerville rollover
- Crash into canyon near Toquerville Falls: 1 dead, 1 survivor; STGnews Videocast
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