(Update: Adding post-sentencing comments from DA John Hummel, Stone’s father)
A Deschutes County judge on Tuesday sentenced Shantel Witt of Bend to more than 12 years in prison for a violent collision that claimed the life of Bend dentist Marika Stone as she rode her bike with two friends east of Bend over a year ago.
“This is the most extreme reckless endangerment case I’ve ever seen,” Circuit Judge Michael Adler told the packed courtroom as he pronounced a total sentence of 12 years and two months upon Witt, whom he convicted of first-degree manslaughter, DUII (drugs) and two counts of recklessly endangering after a two-week nonjury trial earlier this month.
Moments before the judge sentenced her, Witt, now 42, spoke in court for the first time as she tearfully apologized to members of Stone’s family, turning to them and saying, “I wish it was me.”
Afterward, Stone’s family members said Witt’s statement had little effect on them.
Witt was portrayed during her recent trial as a woman who was on nearly a dozen prescription drugs, including taking her dog’s anxiety pills, when the truck she was driving careened across a gentle curve on Dodds Road on Dec. 30, 2017 and slammed into Stone, 38, the third of three cyclists riding single-file along the other side of the road.
“This case stood apart from all the others I’ve seen,” District Attorney John Hummel said. “The number of drugs that the driver took, the level of impairment, and the sheer indifference that she showed to everyone after the horrendous condition that Dr. Stone was in.”
Stone’s fellow riders and several witnesses testified that she had complained moments after about “f*****g cyclists … always in the road” and appeared intoxicated, showing no signs of remorse, concern or sympathy about what had just occurred.
“That person is not who I am — ever,” Witt said between sobs Tuesday when her turn to speak came. “And I hope one day you’re going to forgive me. And I wish it was me. I’m truly sorry. I really am.”
Tuesday’s sentencing hearing also included emotional testimony from Stone’s fellow riders that day, as well as Stone’s father, Greg Middag of Georgia, who told Witt point-blank: “You’ve stolen my daughter.”
“Marika was one DUII too many,” Middag told NewsChannel 21 after the sentencing. “She was a gift to the community here. She was always kind, she was a person that showed a great deal of passion and regard for others. It’s a loss for the whole community, and if we can prevent that, that’s what we should be doing.”
Middag attended the two-week trial that led to Adler’s ruling earlier this month that Witt showed “extreme indifference to human life,” thus fitting the legal definition of first-degree manslaughter, not the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter sought by her defense attorneys, which could have shaved a few years off her sentence.
Fellow cyclist Bruce Rogers, who also testified during the trial, was among those who gave victim impact statements at Tuesday’s sentencing. He said Witt’s reckless actions that day had robbed him of his ability to be an emotional rock for his family, and to properly mourn the loss of his father three weeks earlier.
Prosecutors had laid out testimony that Witt was on nearly a dozen prescription drugs at the time of the Dec. 30, 2017, crash. They recounted in court Tuesday the amount of Xanax she’d ordered as a prescription for her dog, Lola, but was taking herself instead.
In a sentencing memo filed Tuesday, prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Witt to more than 14 years in prison and to order that she pay several fines and expenses, including the travel and counseling costs for Stone’s family.
The judge made one of the sentences, on the misdemeanor DUII charge, concurrent, not consecutive, resulting in the lesser sentence than prosecutors requested. He also set a restitution hearing for March 18, though Witt’s appearance at it was waived.