Garfield County judge sentences driver in fatal crash to five years in prison


Juan Escobar Rosales (Colorado State Patrol photo)

Juan Escobar-Rosales killed Diane Olson, a lawyer said at a plea hearing Thursday.

“You can actually see a crack in the headrest,” Garfield County Assistant District Attorney James Stone said.

Emotions were running high on Thursday when Garfield County District Court Judge John Neiley found enough aggravated reasons to impose a five-year sentence on Escobar-Rosales. Last December, the 23-year-old Salvadoran national was arrested after crashing into a stolen Chevrolet truck in Olson’s Buick sedan.

The collision, which occurred at approximately 8:15 a.m. on December 30, 2020, at the intersection of CMC Road / County Road 154 and Colorado Highway 82, ultimately resulted in Olson’s death and serious injury to a passenger .

Escobar-Rosales would tell investigators the glare of the sun altered his vision just before hitting the back of Olson’s sedan, which was waiting at a red light.

In addition to statements made by Olson’s family on Thursday, passenger Linda Harlan explained what had happened inside the vehicle at the time of the collision.

“We were in the left lane, but we were hit so hard that we ended up in the right lane,” she said. “After the blow, when I opened my eyes, I looked at Diane, and her head was against the doorjamb and her eyes were closed. I started to rub her cheek with the back of my hand. and I said, “Wake up, Diane” in that soft voice. There was no response. “

Harlan said Escobar-Rosales then got out of the truck he was driving barefoot, holding a pair of shoes.

“He sat on the railing and put on his shoes,” she said. “He never, at any time, tried to help us. He just sat there. He showed no remorse or empathy. I had four broken ribs on my heart, blood clots in my legs, and a lot of aches and pains.

The three motorists were taken to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. Olson was pronounced dead the next day, while the passenger and Escobar-Rosales were treated and released.

Although he was released from the scene with a summons, Escobar-Rosales was arrested and charged several weeks later with the crime of homicide at the wheel, aggravated motor vehicle theft, assault and vehicle theft, as well as the offense of impaired driving and driving without a license. offense.

Public Defender Alex Haynes argued Thursday that there was no evidence his client was under the influence.

“No one thought he was under the influence. No one followed the law and arrested him for DUI driving homicide, ”he said. “No one followed the law, because they didn’t see it.”

Haynes said investigators actually drew Escobar-Rosales’ blood to make a sample.

“It’s gone. They destroyed it,” he said. “It’s just, from day one, how badly this case has turned out.”

To complicate matters further, Haynes said that Escobar-Rosales, two weeks after the incident, was arrested by the US Immigration and Customs Agency with assistance from the Glenwood Springs Police Department and ” forced to sign immigration papers “.

“All I know is that he was in a backstage, unrecorded, for an unknown number of hours, being spoken to in a language he didn’t understand, knowing he was probably going to be. deported to a country where, frankly, he is in danger of survival, ”said Haynes.

Stone argued that there was no evidence that Escobar-Rosales stole the truck, although it was reported to have been stolen without permission from a Glenwood Springs company nearly a week before the collision.

After his arrest, Escobar-Rosales reportedly admitted to using methamphetamine on the morning of the crash and selling equipment inside the truck for drugs.

Escobar-Rosales did not plead any challenge to the aggravated felony of motor vehicle theft and reckless driving causing death, while Neiley waived all other offenses.

Subsequently, Escobar-Rosales accepted the immediate sentence.

“I am very sorry,” Escobar-Rosales said in the courtroom via a translator. “I never wanted the accident to happen and the person they love to die.

“I know they are mad at me. I understand.”

Offering his final thoughts, Neiley agreed that Escobar-Rosales was not under the influence at the time of the collision. He found, however, that Escobar-Rosales stole a truck, drove it on Colorado Highway 82 on a clear day and still struck a vehicle, causing Olson’s death.

Neiley also took into consideration that, based on Harlan’s statement, Escobar-Rosales took no action to assist Harlan or Olson at the time of the incident.

Typically, a felony aggravated by a motor vehicle carries a sentence of one to three years, which Neiley says is “just not enough.” In Colorado, a judge can impose a sentence of double the alleged amount.

Escobar-Rosales has already served 351 days of his sentence, which runs simultaneously for both convictions. He also imposed a fine of $ 1,000, with restitution to be determined at a later date.

“He will serve his sentence and can move on,” said Neiley. “Unfortunately, Ms. Olson will not have this opportunity.”

Journalist Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or


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