Familys’ ‘magnanimous’ decision results in reduced charge for man accused in fatal SR-18 crash

ST. GEORGE — A local man who was facing felony manslaughter charges after a woman was killed when he struck her vehicle on state Route 18 in October 2018 appeared in court for sentencing Tuesday.

Ian Alan Schaefer, 24, of Enterprise, appeared in 5th District Court with his defense attorney, Larry Myers, to be sentenced on one count of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor.

The defendant was originally facing second-degree felony manslaughter, a charge that was filed in July of last year by the Washington County Attorney’s Office after reviewing the crash investigation report submitted by the Utah Highway Patrol.

After more than a year of discussions, hearings and negotiations in the case, the state agreed to a two-level reduction from the second-degree felony to the class A misdemeanor in exchange for a guilty plea — but only after the victim’s family agreed.

The case stems from an Oct. 16 head-on collision on SR-18 at mile marker 23 near Brookside involving a Chevrolet pickup truck driven by Schaefer and a Pontiac passenger car driven by 24-year-old Wendy Pollock of Enterprise, who was killed upon impact and pronounced dead at the scene.

Ian Alan Schaefer, 24, of Chalmette, La., booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Jan. 28, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

At the time of the collision, the Chevrolet was traveling north on SR-18 when, for unknown reasons, the male driver suddenly crossed the center line into the southbound lane and into the path of Pollock’s Pontiac, according to a statement released from the Utah Department of Public Safety shortly after the crash occurred.

In an attempt to avoid the collision, Pollock veered left into the northbound lane at the same time the male driver attempted to correct and steer back into his own lane, causing the front of the pickup to strike the Pontiac on the front passenger side. The force of the impact was directed toward the driver’s compartment of the car.

Schaefer was flown to Dixie Regional Medical Center in “extremely critical condition,” according to UHP.

The defendant, who moved to Louisiana shortly after being released from the hospital, entered a plea by mail on the reduced charge of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor, in November 2019.

Washington County Prosecutor Joseph Hood appeared for the state and said that on the day in question, the defendant was driving his vehicle “in a criminally negligent manner,” causing him to veer into oncoming traffic where Pollock’s vehicle was traveling. Both vehicles veered in the same direction, he said, since Pollock swerved to the left to avoid a collision, while Schaefer swerved in the same direction to return to his lane, “basically causing a head-on collision that took the life of Ms. Pollock.”

Scene of a fatal head-on collision on state Route 18 near Brookside, Utah, Oct. 16, 2018 | File photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox referred to the case as a “terribly sad situation” and asked Hood if the family was comfortable with the reduced charge.

The prosecutor replied by saying that after extensive discussions with the family, “they are satisfied with the resolution in the case — with Schaefer’s willingness to be taken off the floor today to begin serving four months in jail.”

Several of Pollock’s family members were present in the courtroom but declined to speak during the hearing.

The judge then addressed the defendant directly regarding the reduction of the charge from a second-degree felony to a class A misdemeanor.

“Mr. Shaefer, you understand that the court doesn’t have to accept the agreement for the two-level reduction,” Wilcox said. “I do accept the agreement based on the victim’s family being comfortable with it. That is the only reason I’m doing that.”

Scene of a fatal head-on collision on state Route 18 near Brookside, Utah, Oct. 16, 2018 | File photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

The defendant was then ordered to serve 120 days in jail with no credit for time served or good time, while the 365-day jail term was suspended. He was also placed on 24-months probation and ordered to pay $1,043 fine and $500 in victim restitution. Wilcox also ordered Shaefer to write a  letter of apology to the Pollock family while in jail to be submitted to the court and prosecutor’s office.

Wilcox said the agreement was made possible because of the “magnanimous” decision by the Pollock family, which he addressed directly at the close of the hearing.

“I know it doesn’t mean much, but I want you to know how sorry I am for your loss.”

The judge then signed the commitment order, and the defendant was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom to begin serving his jail sentence.

St. George News reporter Andrew Pinckney contributed to this report.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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