CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- A teenager was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Monday after he killed two elderly women while driving drunk, high and speeding last year.
The judge sentenced Taden Jones, 19, to 12 years in prison -- six years for each victim -- to be served consecutively. He will also serve five years mandatory parole.
Jones walked inside an Arapahoe County courtroom with a straight face, flanked on all sides by friends and family. He knew he might not walk out.
It was about 3:45 p.m. on April 1 when Jones, who was drunk and drugged on marijuana, cocaine and Xanax, was speeding and weaving near South Colorado Boulevard and Peakview Circle.
He ended up t-boning the car of 78-year-old Carolyn Burton.
Burton and her best friend, 82-year-old Gayle Buckwalter, were both ejected from the car and died.
Buckwalter's son, Bill Buckwalter, said his mother had been ejected through the car’s sunroof and broke her neck.
The two had been making Avon deliveries as they did every Friday.
Jones' lawyer told the judge that her client Jones deserved punishment -- but that prison could do him more harm than good.
She said Jones suffered from drug and alcohol addiction, and had taken steps to rehabilitate himself.
Families of the two women said Jones needed some time in prison. But they also forgave him because that’s what their mothers would have wanted.
Jones addressed the court and tearfully apologized to the victims’ families. He said his faults, selfishness and immaturity led to the deaths of women who did not deserve it.
He said he wasn’t making any excuses and that he would spend the rest of his life being a better person.
"I don’t know why God spared me when it was my fault," he said.
Ultimately, the judge said Jones chose to drive under the influence -- and with that come consequences.
The judge believes sending Jones to prison sends a more powerful message to the community about driving under the influence.
Families of the victims said they’re satisfied with the outcome.
“Taden will learn from this and he will make himself a better person, at least that’s what we are hoping and praying for. We do have a great compassion for his family. I feel they do toward us, and it is genuine,” said Beth Johnson, Burton’s daughter.
“Now, we can move on. I don’t want his life ruined. I don’t want 24 years of prison. I think it’s very just. He will be a better person,” Buckwalter said.
Jones faced up to 24 years in prison if he’d been sentenced consecutively for the two counts of vehicular homicide involving DUI.
He was immediately taken into custody, with audible gasps from his friends and family when the judge announced his decision.
His attorney had asked for time in community corrections.
The victims’ families hope Jones will use his experience to help others battling addiction when he’s released, which with good behavior, could be in six years.AlertMe