Utah Dump Truck Driver Arrested for DUI and Six Counts of Automobile Homicide

A driver of a dump truck carrying a load of dirt was arrested for a DUI and six counts of automobile homicide after a horrifying accident near Jordanelle Reservoir in Utah on Friday.

Fatal accident on Highway 40

41 year old Jamie Don McKenzie was driving a dump truck on U.S. Highway 40 near Jordanelle Reservior when he crossed the median and struck a pickup truck that was going the opposite direction. After hitting the pickup, the dump truck McKenzie was driving continued, finally coming to rest on top of the pickup truck’s hood. The pickup was carrying 6 men, 5 of which were workers from Honduras. Three of the men were thrown from the pickup up during the accident and the other three remained in the cab of the truck as it was crushed by the weight of the dump truck. All six men in the pickup died on impact. McKenzie, the driver of the dump truck survived.

Alcohol, pills and driving don’t mix

All signs point to McKenzie being under the influence when he crashed his pickup truck. Inside the truck that McKenzie was driving, investigators found open containers of alcohol and prescription medication. Officers attending to the accident could smell alcohol on McKenzie’s breath while getting his statement. Prior to the accident, other drivers had called dispatch to report the dump truck as driving erratically, swerving all over the highway at a high rate of speed while dangerously cutting in front of other drivers. McKenzie was arrested and booked on multiple charges including DUI six counts of automobile homicide.

Automobile homicide

Utah Code 76-5-207 states: “Criminal homicide is automobile homicide, a third degree felony, if the person operates a motor vehicle in a negligent manner causing the death of another and:

(i) Has sufficient alcohol in his body that a subsequent chemical test shows that the person has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 grams or greater at the time of the test;
(ii) Is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle; or
(iii) Has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 grams or greater at the time of operation.”

Negligent or criminally negligent

That section goes on to note that if a person is found to have been operating a motor vehicle in a “criminally negligent manner” when they caused the death of another, they charges are then increased to a second degree felony. According to section 76-2-103, “A person engages is conduct . . . with criminal negligence or is criminally negligent with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise in all circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.”

Prior history and reckless driving

Not only was McKenzie found to have been driving under the influence at the time of the crash, he had a lengthy history of mixing alcohol and driving. Additionally, McKenzie’s behavior while driving appeared to be at a complete disregard for the safety of the others around him. Whether or not that was due to his drunken state or his driving style is up for interpretation. Due to his history and the gruesome details of the crash, he could face decades behind bars.

Utah Mother Charged After Beating Son with Broom for Not Doing Chores

A Utah mother was charged with child abuse for beating her son with a broom after the teen refused to do his chores.

Extreme discipline

Photo by: Christopher Sessums

52 year old Irene Pupa of West Valley, Utah was arrested after her 14 year old son was found bleeding from the head with multiple abrasions on his body. Upon investigating the incident, authorities discovered that Pupa had become angry at her son after he blatantly refused to do chores. Pupa took the broom her son was supposed to be cleaning with and hit him over the head with it. She then proceeded to strike her son multiple times on his body as well. The boy was taken to the hospital where it was determined he had bleeding on the brain and a skull fracture.

Felony child abuse

Pupa was booked into the Salt Lake County jail on second degree felony child abuse. Utah Code 76-5-109 states that “Any person who inflicts upon a child serious physical injury, or having the care or custody of such child, causes or permits another to inflict serious physical injury upon a child is guilty of an offense as follows:
(a) If done intentionally or knowingly, the offense is a felony of the second degree;
(b) If done recklessly, the offense is a felony of the third degree; or
(c) If done with criminal negligence, the offense is a class A misdemeanor.”

Anger management

Although Pupa was charged with “intentionally or knowingly” harming her son, she may have not wanted to harm him but did so while in a fit of rage. Like many parents, she could have felt extreme anger with her son’s disrespectful tone and may have been dealing with such behavior for a great length of time. Snapping at kids and inflicting pain on them is not only illegal, but studies have shown it to be less effective than other methods of dealing with parental issues. Parenting teens requires a great deal of patience and keeping a level head during arguments, and those who are unable to do so may benefit greatly from anger management and parenting classes to learn some of these other coping methods for dealing with difficult children. These classes may be taken at the choice of parents and are often court ordered following a family incident. Hopefully Pupa and other parents who struggle with disciplining their teens receive the help they needs to successfully parent their children in a loving and effective manner.

Police Detective Arrested For Sexual Crimes against a Minor

A police detective from Nevada was arrested for sexual crimes against a minor after he crossed state borders to engage in sexual acts with a 15 year old boy in St. George, Utah.

Dating app

50 year old Gary Erickson was booked into a Nevada jail awaiting extradition to Utah for charges of multiple sexual crimes against a minor in Utah that started with a dating app. In March 2018 Erickson and the 15 year old male juvenile met on a dating app called Grindr, a social app that is used primarily by same-sex attracted males. In order to obtain a Grindr account, the teen lied and stated that he was an adult. When Erickson and the teen started exchanging messages, the juvenile then told Erickson he was actually a minor. Despite this, Erickson continued to send and receive sexually explicit messages and arranged to meet face to face in August.

Meeting in person

Following Erickson’s visit to St. George to meet the15 year old boy, the parents of the juvenile found out that the teen and Erickson had been exchanging nude pictures. Their son then told them that he had met a man online who called himself Eric Smith and that the two had arranged to meet at an aquatic center in St. George to engage in sexual acts. The teen then stated that in the locker room of the aquatic center, Erickson and the minor engaged in inappropriate touching. Erickson then inquired whether or not the youth wanted to have sexual intercourse but the youth declined, telling Erickson he needed to go. Following this alarming information, the boy’s parents alerted police who were able to identify “Eric Smith” as Erickson.

Felony and misdemeanor charges

Erickson is facing multiple felony charges for dealing harmful materials to a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor, as well as a misdemeanor charge for sexual abuse of a minor. These charges are described below:

Dealing harmful material to a minor is a third degree felony and is described in Utah Code 76-10-1206 as when a person “. . . knowing or believing that a person is a minor, or having negligently failed to determine the proper age of a minor, the person intentionally:
(a) Distributes or offers to distribute, or exhibits or offers to exhibit, to a minor or a person the actor believes to be a minor, any material harmful to minors;
(b) Produces, performs, or directs any performance, before a minor. . . that is harmful to minors; or
(c) Participates in any performance, before a minor . . . that is harmful to minors. “

Sexual exploitation of a minor is a second degree felony and is described by 76-5b-201 as “when the person:
i. Knowingly produces, possesses, or possesses with intent to distribute child pornography; or
ii. Intentionally distributes or views child pornography;”

• While the charges related to sending and receiving nude pictures are punishable as felonies, the charge against Erickson for sexual abuse of a child was a class A misdemeanor. Section 76-5-401.1 of the Utah Criminal Code states “An individual commits sexual abuse of a minor if the individual is four years or more older than the minor and, under circumstances not amounting to [rape, object rape, forcible sodomy, aggravated sexual assault, unlawful sexual activity with a minor], the individual touches the anus, buttocks, public area, or any part of the genitals of the minor, or touches the breast of a female minor, or otherwise takes indecent liberties with the minor, with the intent to cause substantial emotional or bodily pain to any individual or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any individual regardless of the sex of any participant.”

Child, minor, or 16-17 year old

Many wonder why the charges against Erickson for sending and receiving nude pictures carried more severe penalties than the charge for the actual touching of the boy’s private parts. This lesser charge could be based on the teen’s age at the time of the incident.

• If the juvenile was 16 years old but younger than 18, the charges against the other individual for sexual touching [not including oral sex or any sexual penetration] would be a class A misdemeanor.

• If the juvenile was considered a minor, which by Utah state law is defined as “an individual who is 14 years of age or older, but younger than 16 years of age, at the time the sexual activity described . . .occurred”, then the charges would be likewise be a class A misdemeanor.

• If the juvenile was under 14 years of age, he would be considered a child and the charges for sexual abuse of a child would then be punishable as a second degree felony.

For more information on sexual charges related to juveniles and how age plays a factor in the severity of those charges, contact a qualified criminal defense attorney.