The family of the victims of Saturday’s deadly DUI crash are asking for answers about why the woman initially arrested was released on her own recognizance.
According to the Nevada Highway Patrol’s investigation into the crash, suspected drunk driver, Ashley Winn, 22, failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Honeysuckle and Dandelion streets, crashing into a vehicle.
The early morning crash killed passenger Christine Weir, 33, and critically injured her fiance and driver, Brian Choiniere, 33. They were on their way to drop Weir off at work at the Walmart SuperCenter, according to family members.
When Winn was being processed at the Nye County Detention Center, she was given a bail amount of $200,204 but was initially released on her own recognizance, without posting bail, by Judge Kent Jasperson.
Jasperson rescinded his decision the next morning and Winn turned herself in for rebooking at 9 a.m. Monday. Her bail was reduced to $50,000 Tuesday morning by Judge Jasperson at her first court appearance. She is facing numerous preliminary felony charges.
The two victims’ families are furious with Winn’s release and want to know how someone accused of killing a person and critically injuring another, drunk behind the wheel, can be let out of jail without bail.
“We are greatly upset with this judge and are currently complaining to Nye County,” a family member, who asked to remain anonymous, stated.
The decision also drew public outcry, with several people taking to social media accounts of the Pahrump Valley Times and the Nye County Sheriff’s Office among others, to air their displeasure.
Winn and sheriff’s deputy Joey Marshall have a child together, and the child’s grandfather is former undersheriff Rick Marshall. Rick Marshall and Judge Jasperson worked together at the sheriff’s office and were open supporters of each other while each ran for their respective offices (Rick Marshall, Nye County sheriff, and Jasperson, justice of the peace) in the past.
The connection has some, including the victim’s family, suspecting preferential treatment from Jasperson on Winn’s release.
Despite the claim, both Rick Marshall and Jasperson deny any special treatment was given to Winn.
“Absolutely not,” Rick Marshall said after being asked if he asked Jasperson for a favor. “The people that are claiming that there was some sort of collusion between me and the judge are ignorant and I think that the incident, like any other incident, will be resolved in court.
“It’s a tragic incident and my heart goes out to all the families involved.”
Jasperson echoed Rick Marshall’s denial and said the two had not been in contact at all before or after the crash.
“I make decisions all the time that draw public scrutiny,” Jasperson said. “It’s misguided information by whoever to think that there was preferential treatment. The decision was made on my own.”
Despite taking full responsibility for the decision, Jasperson wouldn’t divulge his reasoning behind releasing Winn, citing the ongoing nature of the case.
Rick Marshall did say he had been in contact with Winn while she was out of jail, but wouldn’t go into what the context of those communications were, stating they were “personal conversations.”
Both Rick Marshall and Jasperson said that they thought it was strange that the sheriff’s office included a line in a press release about the crash about Winn being released on her own recognizance by Jasperson.
But the sheriff’s office explained the only thing strange about the situation was the way Winn was released from jail, stating their actions were standard procedure.
“Although they (Jasperson and Rick Marshall) assert it is odd that the sheriff’s office would do a press release identifying that she was OR’d before Ashley had been processed, the fact of the matter is that IT IS odd, hence, the reason Sheriff (Sharon) Wehrly asked for it to be in the press release,” said Sgt. David Boruchowitz, who puts out the press releases for the sheriff’s office, in an email.
“The sheriff was concerned that the release would cause questions and to limit the influx of calls and demands to the sheriff’s office, she had the press release authored identifying the OR authority so people could direct their questions to the appropriate authority.”
To further clarify the sheriff’s office’s actions, Wehrly explained that it’s common to note how an arrestee’s process went.
“We always give the inmate’s status, ‘booked into the NCSO Detention,’ ‘posted bail,’ ‘issued citation’ and in this case, that was simply what was released,” Wehrly said.
As questions on the handling of Winn’s arrest remain, the families of the victims are looking to rebuild and make sense of it all.
“They were young and in love for 19 years,” a family representative said. “They finally got the home they wanted and were set for their wedding in two weeks.”
The families have started a GoFundMe page to help pay for funeral costs, burial costs, and to bring all Weir’s immediate family to town from Massachusetts for her funeral.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the family said that Choiniere is doing much better while recovering at UMC, and was expected home later that day.
“He’s up and talking, he’s able to walk around with assistance,” a family member said. “He’s missing Christine though.”
Contact reporter Mick Akers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.