Jury: Brechler guilty of Route 66 DUI manslaughter
KINGMAN - Delbert Brechler was absent without permission when a jury reached a verdict in his manslaughter, aggravated assault and three felony DUI trial, but Brechler, now a fugitive, will someday be able to read the transcript: Guilty on all counts.
Nobody can say with certainty how fast Brechler was driving when he smashed into the rear of Cody Raymond's truck and killed him on July 21, but the force of the impact lifted the back of the truck off its rear wheel and destroyed the transaxle.
The collision was offset, according to the state's expert witness, with the left side of Brechler's car striking the passenger side of the truck, causing it to rotate to the left and travel into the median more than 700 feet before it rolled and came to rest upside down.
The roof was crushed on the driver's side, severely damaging Raymond's vertebrae and neck. His passenger was essentially uninjured, as was Brechler.
Raymond, 17, succumbed to his injuries a few hours later. He never regained consciousness.
"This was a horrific collision with a horrific result," said a visibly upset prosecutor Rod Albright in his closing argument. "And Cody's family had to watch him die."
Albright said Brechler, who registered a 0.208 blood alcohol content shortly after the fatal incident, was not "slightly drunk but very drunk and turned his car into an instrument of death."
Albright recounted the testimony of witness Debra Sine, who said she watched Brechler drive east with reckless disregard for the entire two-mile stretch of Route 66 between Horizon Boulevard and John L Avenue, where the collision occurred.
Sine said Brechler drove either on the shoulder of the highway or straight in the middle of the centerline, but he never traveled within either the left or right eastbound lanes.
Defense attorney Jake Chavez, who had to represent a client who failed to show up for his own trial, said Raymond's death was the result of an accident that did not rise to the level of manslaughter.
Chavez's own expert witness appeared to base his accident reconstruction on a single statement Brechler gave law enforcement following his arrest. In that interview, Brechler said Raymond was traveling in and out of the turn lane and had veered back to the left when "it was too late" to avoid a crash.
The witness's premise was that the damage was caused when Raymond crossed in front of Brechler's path from the right to the left.
A juror's question seemed to deflate the theory when the witness was asked if the same damage would occur if Brechler were traveling from left to right at the point of impact.
He acknowledged that was the case.
Jurors began deliberations just after 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Judge Rick Williams issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Brechler, whom authorities believe could be hiding out with family in either Tucson or California.
When he's captured, Williams can sentence him to more than 30 years in prison. Brechler previously turned down a plea deal that would have resulted in a maximum sentence of half that time.