The man whose truck hit and killed Utah Highway Patrol trooper Randy K. Ingram will place flowers on the fallen trooper's grave for three years as part of a plea agreement announced in court Tuesday.
Ingram's widow, Carlene Ingram, orchestrated the agreement and asked that David R. Buck, 29, serve no jail time for the crash that killed her husband but that he acknowledge his responsibility in the trooper's death, view photographs of the accident scene and decorate Ingram's grave on the first three anniversaries of the trooper's death.The plea bargain was laid out in a change-of-plea hearing before 4th Circuit Judge Steven Hansen on Tuesday afternoon. The judge still must approve the agreement.
Immediately afterward, Buck and members of Ingram's family filed into a small conference room adjacent to the Nephi courtroom where Buck apologized for taking the trooper's life.
Ingram had stopped a van for a safety violation about 10 p.m. Oct. 5, 1994, on I-15 near Nephi and was sitting in his patrol car in the emergency lane when the semitrailer truck Buck was driving slammed into the cruiser from behind and killed the trooper. Buck was not injured. Buck acknowledged Tuesday he was talking on his cellular phone when his truck hit Ingram's car.
Buck had pleaded not guilty on Oct. 18 to one count of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor, and one count of improper log-keeping, a class C misdemeanor.
Juab County Attorney David Leavitt inherited the case when he took office in January. He told the Deseret News he knew Ingram well and took the case personally. "I would call out to the house, and Randy's voice is still on the answering machine. I don't think (Carlene) will ever take it off," Lea-vitt said.
Leavitt let Carlene Ingram determine how he would proceed. "I went to Randy's widow and told her, `As far as I'm concerned this is your case.'
"All she wanted was for someone to accept responsibility for her husband's death," Leavitt said. "She said, `Nothing's going to be gained by Mr. Buck's going to jail.' In fact, she would have refused a deal that included even 30 days jail time."
Tuesday's change-of-plea hearing followed protracted negotiations between Leavitt and Buck and his attorneys. The judge agreed with the prosecution's request that the second charge for the log book violation be dropped as part of the plea bargain but reminded Buck it was "up to this court alone to determine what penalty is best for you" and that the plea agreement would be considered as "recommendations only."
Class A misdemeanors can be punished by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Buck has not served time in jail since being charged with Ingram's death and remains free pending a sentencing hearing, which Hansen said he will schedule at a later date to follow the completion of a pre-sentence report from Adult Probation and Parole. Any monetary damages beyond the criminal fine would be determined in a separate civil suit, Leavitt said.