A Peach Springs man characterized as the most culpable in the death of a woman abandoned at a cemetery last year was sentenced Friday to three years in prison, despite the fact that three other co-defendants in the case escaped with probation.
Roland Cook was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and abuse of a vulnerable adult. Prosecutor Jace Zack said Cook was the driver and least drunk out of a group of five people who stopped at a Valentine cemetery on their way back from Kingman in June 2011.
Danielle Sinyella, who at 39 was blind, suffered from diabetes and required a cane to walk, was left behind in 100-degree weather. Her body was discovered three days later by a survey crew doing work in the area.
In the time she was gone, not one person questioned Sinyella's whereabouts, Zack said.
Peach Springs residents Alicia Hunter, Angelina Wilder and Brainard Walema, who were all in the car that day, pleaded guilty abuse of a vulnerable adult.
A Hualapai Tribal Police Officer who testified in the case said Walema barely remembers leaving the cemetery before waking up in the car a few hours later. The officer said Hunter and Wilder didn't remember the incident at all, and couldn't verify that Hunter had also been left behind but hitchhiked home.
The group had reportedly traveled to Bashas' in Kingman and drank half a bottle of vodka on their way back to Peach Springs before stopping at the cemetery at Sinyella's urging to visit the grave of a loved one.
Cook's attorney, Vince Iaonne, acknowledged that Cook was partly responsible for Sinyella's death, but said the intoxicated Sinyella also bore some blame.
"This is the kind of case where everyone needs to look in the mirror and share the blame," Iaonne said. "That includes Roland, that includes Miss Sinyella and that includes the three co-defendants."
Cook told investigators that he was the least drunk of the group but his level of intoxication isn't known. Zack said that the public needs to know that even intoxicated individuals are responsible for their actions. Judge Steven Conn agreed, sentencing Cook to a mitigated sentence of three years out of a possible 8¾ years.