Adams County Sheriff's commander convicted of causing fatal crash near Bennett

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ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — An Adams County Sheriff’s commander was convicted of causing a crash that killed one woman and injured another near Bennett.

On March 28, 2019, John Paul Bitterman was on duty  in an unmarked patrol car. He ran a stop sign on East 88th Avenue and Highway 79, crashing into a Nissan Murano.

Eira Saenz Sandoval, 85, died in the crash. She was a passenger in the Nissan. Its driver, 58-year-old Maria Del Refugio Corral Saenz, suffered a fractured leg and sternum.

According to the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, evidence presented during Bitterman’s two-day trial showed he had not been dispatched (nor had he dispatched himself) to a call before the crash. He also did not turn on his vehicle’s lights or siren.

“Evidence also showed that he was logging into his computer system while driving in the moments before the crash,” the DA’s office said in a statement.

The DA’s office says data retrieved from the patrol car showed Bitterman slowed to 29 mph two seconds before the crash but was then accelerating with the pedal to the floor at the time of the collision.

The speed limit in the area is 55 mph.

“The Colorado State Patrol concluded that Bitterman likely was distracted when he failed to stop at a clearly posted stop sign at the intersection. The State Patrol investigation found that neither vehicle showed signs of slamming on the brakes prior to impact,” the DA’s office said.

Moreover, CSP found sun glare was not an issue for Bitterman but could have been for Saenz.

An Adams County jury convicted Bitterman of careless driving resulting in death and careless driving causing bodily injury.

His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 28.

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