I want to take an opportunity to update everyone on the judicial happenings in regards to Pamela’s death and the injuries to Ryan and Audrey.
The police completed their investigation and the report back in January. The police report recommended that Mr. Epperlein be charged with one count of ARS 28-675, Causing death by use of a vehicle and two counts of ARS 28-676, Causing serious physical injury by use of a vehicle. The report was then sent to the Maricopa County Attorney’s office. Mr. Andrew Paine, in the Maricopa County Attorney’s office was chosen to review the report. He then reviewed the report and invited us to his office to go over his findings.
Mr. Paine expressed his sympathy and explained to us the legalities of the case. Mr. Paine explained that in order for them to bring charges there must be a reasonable likelihood of a conviction beyond a shadow of a doubt. He explained the things they look for such as impairment, excessive speed, etc. Manslaughter and Negligent homicide statutes require reckless conduct on the part of the driver. Reckless is defined as; acted with gross deviation of care as someone else, “Heinous, Significant, Severe”.
Mr. Paine then went through the facts of the case.
There are several witnesses that have confirmed that Pamela, Ryan and Audrey did have the right-of-way and that they were legally in the crosswalk.
Mr. Epperlein was driving on a suspended license since March 10, 2015. The suspension was because of lack of insurance. Because of his past DUI he was required to have an SR-22 type of insurance for high risk drivers. He was also driving a friends vehicle that had a suspended license and no insurance. Even though his license was suspended this is not a factor in a felony prosecution.
Mr. Epperlein did not show signs of impairment. Even though the accident resulted in a fatality, a blood drug test is not required by law.
Three days after the accident a warrant to search the truck Mr. Epperlein was driving was executed. The police recovered three (3) empty pill bottles along with marijuana and papers. One vial had the label removed and the prescriptions were made out to another person. Because the truck belonged to someone else he was not responsible for its contents and possession of narcotics is not admissible.
The police had his cell phone checked by Verizon and it showed that he was not using the phone during the time of the accident. If Mr. Epperlein was using his phone or any other activity, charges of distracted driving could have been added.
There were no skid marks to assist in calculating the speed of Mr. Epperleins vehicle. The police calculated, to the best of their ability, his speed by examining the distance that Pamela body traveled (130 feet) from the point of impact along with the amount of damage that was done to the front end of the truck he was driving. It was estimated that Mr. Epperlein’s speed ranged between 43 and 52 miles per hour. The posted speed is 45mph. According to Mr. Paine, he would have had to have been driving at a speed of twenty or more miles per hour over the speed limit in order to prosecute for criminal speed.
This is the statement from the police report Mr. Epperlein gave:
At 2028 hours, I (the officer conducting this interview) read Epperlein his Miranda Warnings from a form. I asked him if he understood his rights per Miranda and he told me “Yes”. I then interviewed Epperlein reference the traffic collision. Epperlein told me before the collision he was at work at Fry’s. He was working the 0730 to 1430 shift. He said they were short staffed so he stayed until 1730 hours. Epperlein told me when he left work he stopped at Little Casers Pizza and purchased a pizza. The Little Caesars is located in the same shopping center where he works. He then exited the parking lot and drove westbound on Ray Road. His intent was to drive west on Ray Road and then north to Kyrene Road to go home. Epperlein told me he thought he was driving westbound in the center lane of Ray Road prior to the collision. I asked him what he remembered prior to the intersection. He told me that as he approached the intersection he told me the westbound traffic light was green. He further stated he did not remember if he looked away but then saw the female and “Boom”.
I asked Epperlein if he was on his cellular phone or texting prior to the collision and he told me no. I also asked him if he was listening to the radio and he said “No”. I asked Epperlein where his cellular phone was when he was driving. He specifically told me his phone was in his pocket. I asked him if he would have a problem if police looked at his cellular phone to verify if he was on his phone and he told me ‘No”. He told me just as finger swipe would unlock his phone. I later placed his cellular phone in “Airplane Mode” and powered it off. The cellular phone was later placed into evidence and Epperlein was given a property receipt for the property seized as evidence. I asked Epperlein if he had seen any pedestrians prior to entering the intersection and he told me “No”. He further stated that prior to the intersection there was a vehicle just ahead of him that was going the same direction. Epperlein told me he thought the vehicle was going to cut him off because the vehicle started to merge into his lane. Epperlein said because of the vehicle his attention was focused on that vehicle. As I interviewed him he abruptly told me he did not know his driver’s license was suspended until an unidentified officer at the scene told him his driver’s license was suspended. I showed him his driver’s license status on my department issued tablet. I informed him his driver’s license status showed a financial responsibility suspension to include all registrations. I asked him if he knew how long the suspension had been there. He told me he thought since October because he did not make his insurance payment since October because his vehicle was inoperable. I asked Epperlein if he got a notice of suspension in the mail from the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division (MDV). He said the notice was for the vehicle suspension only. I also confirmed Epperlein had been living at his address of record for a couple of years.
As I spoke with Epperlein about the notices from MVD he confirmed he received a notice of suspension for the vehicle he owned but said he did not think anything of it because he no longer had the vehicle. He also told me he had never received any citation(s) from any law enforcement officers regarding no insurance. I asked Epperlein if he was aware his license was suspended prior to borrowing his friend’s pickup truck today. He told me “No” and also told me he would not have driven if he knew his driver’s license was suspended. A few minutes later I informed Epperlein his driver’s license had been suspended since March 2015. He told me his driver’s license had been reinstated. He also told me he had since registered a vehicle since that date with MVD. Epperlein said his driver’s license has been suspended in the past. I asked him how he found out his driver’s license had been suspended since the latest suspension on March 15, 2015. Epperlein replied he had his license reinstated but now remembered that was in 2014. Epperlein told me he had a previous DUI and also had his driver’s license suspended for too many points when he lived in Flagstaff, Arizona. I asked him again if he ever got any document in the mail from MVD for his March 15, 2015 financial responsibility suspension and he told me “No”. This ended my interview with Mr. Epperlein.
Mr. Paine explained that the running of a red light, driving on a suspended license and causing Pamela’s death and the physical and emotional injuries to Ryan and Audrey are not reason enough for them to pursue a charge of a felony. Therefore, the county is not going to prosecute and will send the case back to the City of Chandler. I am unsure of what the City of Chandler is able to do, but it is my understanding that he will receive a ticket for red light running and driving under a suspended license which are both misdemeanors.
I had six children, and while growing up they were all taught to respect the law. They learned that when you did something wrong, you were to admit that what you did was wrong, take steps to reconcile with the person(s) you harmed and face the consequence and make the changes in your life to not make that mistake again. Every driving manual that Arizona distributed and licensing tests that are given states the consequences for breaking the law. Mr. Epperlein has had numerous charges for traffic violations. He continued to drive even though he has a suspended license, he has had 3 DUI’s that were all plead down to misdemeanors along with several other violations. I wonder, if he had been made accountable for those charges at that time, and he had fulfilled the penalties for those actions, the same penalties that were reiterated when he took a court ordered drug/alcohol screening and treatment, that maybe, somehow, his actions on November 12th would have been different and Pamela would be here taking care of her kids today and the promise of the text she made to her husband just before leaving the park that day of “I love you, I’ll be home soon” could be fulfilled. Maybe he would see driving as a privilege and not a right. He would not have driven on a suspended license. He would have seen that the light was red like the other drivers that were at the intersection at that same moment. He would have noticed three people right in front of him and would have at least tried to stop. He would have immediately jumped out of his vehicle and ran to their aid to start to at least try to fix the damage he had done. He would have realized that when you take control of a wheel you are not the only person that matters.
Over the years, Mr. Epperlein has been given opportunity after opportunity to change his behavior behind the wheel. On November 12th, he violated the trust that the previous courts had awarded him by allowing him to not face the stricter penalties in the hopes that he would change his ways. Once again Mr. Epperlein is not being charged fully with the crimes he has committed.
I plan on making copies of all the documentation I have collected and visit Mr. Alberto Gutier, who is the Arizona Govenor’s Office of Highway Safety Director. I feel that I need to do what I can to encourage the lawmakers to consider all aspects of any case.
When Pamela was a child I needed to be her voice, she was too young to speak for herself. She then grew into a wonderful and caring wife, mother, friend and active member of the community. It is because of Mr. Epperleins actions that Pamela cannot be here to represent herself or her children so once again I will take on the role of speaking up for my daughter.
Thank you again for all for the support.
If you have any suggestions or comments I would love to hear them.
With a heavy heart