JEROME — The man charged in the June 2018 crash that killed two people will spend a minimum of eight years in prison.
Brian Michael Trappen, 38, appeared before Fifth District Judge Eric Wildman the afternoon of Nov. 18 at the Jerome County Judicial Annex.
Trappen caused the five-vehicle accident on June 3, 2018, which killed Maricruz Lenhart and her son, Charles Lenhart.
Trappen was driving a Ford F-250 pickup east in the westbound lanes of Interstate 84 near milepost 169. Police said he was under the influence of alcohol and various drugs.
In a hearing that lasted nearly two hours, family members of the deceased recounted how the crash has impacted their lives.
Jonathan Lenhart, Maricruz Lenhart’s husband and Charles Lenhart’s father, turned the courtroom podium to face Trappen, showing photos of his wife and son.
“Only a father can understand what I lost,” Jonathan Lenhart said.
Samantha Delatorre Hogan spoke on behalf of her father, Francisco Delatorre, who was severely injured in the crash. Delatorre was riding in the same van with the Lenharts, but was ejected.
Maricruz Lenhart was Francisco Delatorre’s sister.
Hogan described her aunt as a special education teacher who worked three jobs. “People looked up to her,” Hogan said.
“Charles was a sweet, creative and funny boy,” Hogan said of her cousin. She called him a “band geek,” who played saxophone and marched in the band.
Delatorre has undergone multiple surgeries, Hogan said. He is still in constant pain and can’t work.
“Every day I see my dad with his limp, my heart aches,” Hogan said.
Sharon Taki-Bishop, of Newcastle, Washington, attended the hearing with her husband, Ron. Both were in the 2015 Audi Q5 that Trappen hit head-on.
While Taki-Bishop told the court she has tried to remain optimistic, her life has changed.
“I have come to the realization that I can’t go back to what I used to do,” Taki-Bishop said.
She has also undergone multiple surgeries and now walks with a cane.
Taki-Bishop called Trappen’s actions that night inexcusable.
When people ask how she is doing, she tells them she could be better.
“I would be better if I could turn back time and never had a reason to know you,” she told Trappen.
Sandra Scott, Jerome County deputy prosecutor, told Wildman that Trappen has continued to use alcohol since the crash, as recently as August 2019.
One letter submitted in support of Trappen acknowledged his use of medication, and asked the court not to sentence him to prison, so he could spend time with his young son.
“No prison sentence will bring more harm to the victims,” Scott argued. “There’s nothing Mr. Trappen can do to make them whole.”
Trappen was originally charged with multiple felonies: two counts of vehicular manslaughter, two counts of aggravated driving under the influence and a misdemeanor count of driving without privileges.
The plea agreement signed in August dismissed all but the vehicular manslaughter charges.
Trappen’s defense attorney, Doug Nelson, countered, “If something happens and it’s truly an accident, there should be no punishment.”
Nelson emphasized the contention that Trappen had suffered a blackout prior to the crash, due to a combination of medications and alcohol.
“He had no idea what the hell he was doing,” Nelson said.
Wildman did not agree.
After Trappen spoke directly to the victims, apologizing, he turned to Wildman and asked for leniency.
Wildman noted the protection of society as his primary concern in delivering the sentence.
“I can’t overstate the impact to the families,” he said. “I see this case a lot differently than you, Mr. Trappen.”
Wildman detailed several key points — Trappen’s lack of accountability, his minimization of his conduct, and his lack of remorse.
“You have a long history of substance abuse,” Wildman told Trappen. “This wasn’t your first rodeo.”
Wildman added, “Had you been forthright with the doctors, we probably wouldn’t be here today.”
In total, Wildman sentenced Trappen to a minimum of four years in prison on each count of vehicular manslaughter, with a maximum of nine years. The sentences will run consecutively, amounting to a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 18 years, plus criminal and civil fines.
Trappen was immediately handcuffed by Jerome County Sheriff’s deputies and taken into custody.
Trappen will be sentenced in Twin Falls on Nov. 25 in a separate case, on a charge of video voyeurism.
He entered a guilty plea in that case in September, and faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
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