A 52-year-old retired Army colonel has been sentenced to eight years in prison for driving while drunk and killing a Colorado state trooper last year.
18th Judicial District Judge Richard Caschette handed down the sentence to Eric Peter Henderson …
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18th Judicial District Judge Richard Caschette handed down the sentence to Eric Peter Henderson in a Douglas County courtroom on June 28. Henderson, who also was sentenced to five years of parole, pleaded guilty May 18 to vehicular homicide and tampering with evidence, two of the five charges he faced in connection with the death of Colorado State Trooper Jaimie Jursevics.
“The sentence today must send a clear message to those who are thinking of drinking and driving,” Caschette said. “It is clear to the court that on the day of Trooper Jursevics' death, the defendant had too much to drink, but he made the decision to drive.
“In the past, the defendant has served his country with honor, but on this night, he was a coward.”
The night of Nov. 15, 2015, Jursevics, 33, was parked on the right shoulder of I-25 near mile marker 175 in Castle Rock investigating a crash. While outside her vehicle, she was hit by Henderson and sustained fatal injuries.
Henderson, of Peyton, a small town near Colorado Springs, did not stop. He continued to drive on the highway and eventually on back roads, before pulling over and dumping out the contents of his cooler. Henderson and a passenger had been drinking at the Broncos game in Denver.
Jursevics, who lived in Denver with her husband, Didzis, and their infant daughter, Morgan Lynn, joined the state patrol in January 2011 and transferred to Troop 1-C Castle Rock in 2014.
George Brauchler, district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, reported at the sentencing hearing that 2 1/2 hours after Henderson struck Jursevics with his truck, his blood alcohol level was 0.150.
“It's a tough case all the way around because you're talking about sentencing a guy, who prior to this day, was widely regarded as a soldier's soldier. Some regard him as a hero,” Brauchler said. “He was an officer who served our county for 27 years. But on that day, on Nov. 15, 2015, when he made the decision to pour himself into that truck at that huge blood alcohol level and barrel down that road for 37 miles, all that honor, all that integrity, all that courage and duty, all the things he lived his life by seemed to be dumped on the side of the road.”
At the sentencing hearing, many friends and family members spoke in memory of Jursevics, about the pain her death has caused, and urged the judge to sentence Henderson to the maximum.
“Nothing will ever take our pain away, but we're begging for justice to be served,” said Alissa Penikas, Jursevics' sister.
Her husband, Didzis, prepared a statement that was read by his friend, Keith Overland.
“What happened that night was not an accident,” he said. “It was an entire day of choices that resulted in him murdering my wife.”
Several fellow soldiers spoke on Henderson's behalf, urging the judge to consider the whole person and not just the events of Nov. 15.
Henderson also gave his first statement since his arrest. He had been advised by lawyers not to speak to media or Jursevics' family.
“I am ashamed,” he said, fighting back tears, as many of Jursevics' family also did while standing at the podium. “I'm not here to offer excuses. I am here to stand accountable for my actions.”
But state patrol Chief Scott Hernandez said Henderson's actions that night did more than take the life of a trooper, mother and wife. Because of Jursevics' death, 15 cases — 12 DUI and three felony — were dismissed because she was the main witness. In addition, three state patrol cadets quit the academy.
“I cannot overstate the impact it has had on Jaimie's family,” Hernandez said. “It's devastating to watch that. It adds the devastation when you see the impact on our organization.”
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