SAGUACHE — A Boulder man facing vehicular homicide and other charges, including reckless driving and possession of drugs, will likely not receive jail time after agreeing to a plea deal with the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Jason Huntress, 26, of Boulder, appeared Tuesday, March 16, in Saguache District Court for a plea hearing related to charges of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and six other charges resulting from a 2019 car accident in which Huntress was driving and that caused the death of Barbara Vigil, 73, of Saguache.
In exchange for pleading guilty to vehicular homicide and careless driving resulting in death, both the defense and the DA’s office have agreed upon a plea deal where Huntress receives a deferred sentence involving no jail time and four years of probation, after which his record will be expunged.
Huntress was present with his defense attorneys, Megan Downing and Marnie Adams of Denver. Deputy District Attorney Alex Raines was present, representing the state.
Judge Amanda Hopkins asked for statements from family members whom she described as having been “vociferous” in their disagreement with the proposed sentence. Two family members spoke.
“We’re devastated at the thought of a deferred sentence,” said Tammy Vigil, daughter-in-law of the victim, Barbara Vigil. “My mom died. We don’t have her anymore.”
“We feel that the sentence is very light compared to what happened,” said Tony Vigil, Barbara Vigil’s son. “I don’t want to see Mr. Huntress locked up for the rest of his life, but I want him to think about what he’s done. And I don’t think that will happen with no jail time.”
After making sure he understood the charges and what rights he was waiving in pleading guilty, Judge Hopkins asked Huntress how he pled to the charge of vehicular homicide plus careless driving resulting in death.
Huntress said he was guilty of those charges.
If the plea arrangement had included serving time, the vehicular homicide charge would have involved serving from two to six years in the Department of Corrections with no less than one year and no more than 12 years plus mandatory probation. The reckless driving charge would have brought from 6 to 18 months in the Saguache County Jail.
Judge Hopkins then dismissed the remaining charges numbered two through eight, which included vehicular assault, reckless driving, speeding, two counts of possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance and a charge related to a weapon found in the truck.
The judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation into Huntress, which will include a report and surveys conducted by the probation department in Boulder. The purpose is to help the judge “understand a little more” about the defendant. She also told Huntress that he may be required to do a urine analysis and that “coming out clean would be a good idea.”
Hopkins addressed the family, saying that she was not currently accepting the sentencing but, based on other people in the area who received deferred sentence offers or similar plea agreements to what Huntress was offered and assuming he did not have an extensive criminal history or a history of excessive drug or alcohol use, she was “likely to accept [the agreement].”
“Part of my job is to treat people in similar situations in similar ways,” Judge Hopkins said. “That’s not to disregard or discredit what you have to say. I’ve been in a very similar situation, so I have some insight into how you’re feeling. But please know to expect that and tell your family that, as well.”
According to the arrest report, on Nov. 25, 2019, at about 6:30 p.m., a two-vehicle crash involving a fatality and serious bodily injury occurred on Highway 17 at Moffat Way in Moffat.
When Colorado State Patrol arrived on the scene, a 2004 red Chevrolet Blazer was on the southbound side of the road with extensive damage to its front and right side. A 2019 gray Dodge Ram 1500 truck was partially in the southbound lane with heavy front crash damage. The report states there were “large gouges” in the roadway on Highway 17.
Barbara Vigil, who had been driving the Blazer, died at the scene. The passenger of the Dodge truck, Christina Salgado, was transported to San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center in an ambulance with serious bodily injuries. The driver of the truck, Huntress, was not injured in the crash.
Huntress told CSP officers on the scene that he and his girlfriend, Salgado, were traveling to Santa Fe to visit family for Thanksgiving.
After examining the crash site, the CSP trooper who investigated the scene determined Huntress was traveling southbound. Vigil was traveling northbound and was turning left onto Moffat Way when her Blazer was struck near the front tire by the Dodge Ram.
The report stated that an examination of the cruise control in the Dodge revealed that Huntress was driving 101 mph up to just a few seconds before the crash. At the time of impact, his speed was 89 mph.
The posted speed limit on that section of Highway 17 is 50 mph.
Huntress told CSP troopers that “he believed there was more than a pound of marijuana in the truck” and a gun that Salgado had brought because “her dad made her carry one.” An inventory conducted later also found a black THC container with Psilocybin mushrooms.
According to Lori Lujan, a lifelong family friend, Vigil was beloved by the community of Saguache, where she lived her entire life.
“She had an infectious smile and a laugh that you didn’t forget,” Lujan said. “She defined inclusive. Barbara Vigil embraced people like no one else did. We’re all more than heartbroken.”
Vigil is survived by her four children and their spouses, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
The sentencing hearing was scheduled for May 18. Judge Hopkins said immediate family members, as defined by the Victim Rights Act, would be allowed to speak.