Caleb Edwards (right) stands and listens as District Judge David Wilson reads his punishment (Edwards' Lawyer, Joe Scott Evans, is standing with him).
Edwards Gets 10 Years for 2012 Crash That Killed 2, LIVINGSTON, December 12, 2014 - A Polk County Jury of 12 sentenced Caleb Edwards to 10 years behind bars for the 2012 automobile accident that claimed a 33 year old woman and her 17 year old brother. At the opening of the trial, Edwards opted to plead not guilty. During opening arguments, Prosecutor, Joe Martin pointed out to the jury that through questioning by law enforcement, Edwards admitted to having four or five beers and some Crown Royal whiskey. Throughout the trial Edwards insisted that he wasn't intoxicated at the time of the accident (even though blood work shows that he was way above the legal limit for what is considered legally intoxicated). Edwards also insisted that he was in his lane of traffic at the time of the accident (even though evidence at the scene including tire marks on the road suggest that it was Edwards who crossed over the center stripe when the accident occurred).
On that evening, 17 year old Jacob Klein and his older sister Tiffany Lewandowski were returning from a company (no alcohol) Christmas party and were south-bound on US-146. Their parents were a just a couple of minutes behind them in another vehicle. Edwards was driving his friend's truck and was on his way to town to buy some more beer. When Klein's parents spotted the accident that had just occurred, their step dad, Arthur West, said that he knew it wasn't good. West stopped his vehicle and told his wife to wait in the car. He got out "When I saw the back of Jacob's pickup, I knew it was them". West paused because of emotion, "I walked up to Jacob, I knew that he was deceased. I hugged him and told him that I love him". Lewandowski was ejected from the car and lay deceased on a residential lawn near the demolished vehicle, West continued, "I laid down on the ground beside Tiffany and kissed her, then I walked back to my wife and told her, that they're gone". West was visibly emotional but held up. "I have to relive that every night" he stated from the witness stand.
A good portion of the trial involved Edwards' Lawyer, Joe Scott Evans, questioning Trooper Allen Stanton who investigated the accident. Evans questioned Stanton about legal intoxication, and the marks on the road that tell the story of what happened when Edwards crossed into the south-bound lane of 146 causing the accident.
Prosecutor Joe Martin called several of Edwards' ex-girlfriends to the stand. One girlfriend stated that Edwards was in a dispute with Jacob Klein's best friend and said that she heard Edwards say that he would "Put him in the grave right beside his best friend". Edwards also left a message on a girlfriend's phone that was recorded. The message occurred when Edwards was having a dispute with his girlfriend. When she refused to answer the phone Edwards left a recorded message. Martin played the message for the jury, in the message Edwards said "...answer the Fu--ing phone! I'm gonna beat you like a red headed step child and leave more than one place that needs to be sewn up! Understand?!". Testimony from ex-girfriends painted a picture of Edwards as a young man with an anger problem. One such girlfriend was a 16 year old girl whom Edwards allegedly got pregnant (the pregnancy was terminated). Another girlfriend whom has Edwards' child said that when Edwards found out that she was going to have a girl he said that he doesn't have girls, but rather soldiers. After a dispute, Edwards agreed to legally relinquish parental rights to the child.
Prosecutor, Joe Martin addresses a Polk County Jury during closing arguments of the Trial of Caleb Edwards in District Judge David Wilson's Court in Livingston on December 11, 2014.
Closing Arguments... During closing arguments, Martin stated to the jury "I don't think that a parent can conceive something more horrible than what happened to them two years ago" (referring to the deceased victim's parents). "It's been a living nightmare for them for the last two years" Martin said.
Edwards' lawyer, Joe Evans, explained to the jury that when the accident happened, Edwards' talked to several first responders and that none of them ever smelled alcohol or observed behavior that was consistent with being intoxicated, and that even if Edwards had been intoxicated, it doesn't necessarily mean that alcohol was the cause of the accident.
In a follow up statement to the jury, Martin stated "If you can't find him guilty in this case, then I don't know of any case that you can find someone guilty" (of intoxication manslaughter). At the end of his closing statement, Martin dimmed the courtroom lights and played a recording of the frantic 911 call to the Polk County Sheriff's Office from a witness to the accident. While the tape played, Martin silently displayed photos on an overhead projector of family pictures, graduation pictures, etc. of the accident victims. In less than two hours, the jury of 12 returned with a conviction on both counts of intoxication manslaughter.
Punishment Phase... During arguments for punishment, Evans called Edwards to the witness stand. Evans asked Edwards if he felt any remorse, Edwards stated that there's countless nights when he can't sleep because he hears Mrs. West's voice crying "My babies my babies!". During cross exam, Martin asked if Edwards was intoxicated when the accident occurred, Edwards denied that he was intoxicated. When Martin asked Edwards about the accident, Edwards insisted that he was in his lane of traffic when the accident occurred (putting Jacob Klein and Tiffany Lewandowski at fault). Martin asked him about the threatening call placed to his girlfriend, Edwards stated that he was joking. Edwards also allegedly told another girlfriend during an argument "You're no better to me than that family who was killed in the wreck". Edwards' alleged messages in social media didn't help his cause. Edwards allegedly posted to a friend on twitter that he had lost is driver's license because of the wreck "...but it's all good". Edwards also admitted to having consumed alcohol since the night of the accident and to have driven a vehicle (both are violations of a legal agreement with the State). Evans called several witnesses to the stand including Edwards' mother and other people that knew Edwards. Each asked the jury to give Edwards probation. Each spoke of how Edwards is actually a nice person, and a hard worker who cares about others. Edwards spent a considerable amount of time volunteering his work for the youth rodeo arena.
Final Arguments of Punishment Phase... Joe Martin stated to the jury that this is not "...what can we do for Caleb Edwards, but rather, what can we do about Caleb Edwards. The voices of the dead cry out for justice" Martin said. Martin explained to the jury that over the two years since the accident, Edwards never tried to contact the family of the victims to apologize, and that Edwards only thinks of himself, and how he can serve himself.
Joe Evans countered that many of us have drank too much and driven on the road, made crazy comments that we wish we could take back. Referring to the possibility of prison, Evans stated, "You put this boy in with the worst of the worst and what will he become"?
In his final statement to the jury, Martin walked over to the family of Jacob Klein and Tiffany Lewandowski and said to the jury, when you return with your verdict, be sure to look at this family. Martin, in a very emotional and poignant moment spoke about each family member (the parents of Klein and Lewandowski, Lewandowski's six year old daughter, and other relatives), as Martin spoke with emotion, family members began to cry.
After deliberating for about three hours, the jury handed down 10 years and a $10,000 fine for each charge, Caleb Edwards stood emotionless. Edwards' two 10 year sentences are to be served simultaneously. Prosecutor Joe Martin asked that they be served consecutively (meaning after one is over, then the next one begins), Judge Wilson rejected the motion. Edwards will have to serve at least five years before being eligible for parole.
During impact statements, Lewandowski's father, Perry Seamons stated to Edwards, "I had to say goodbye to my only child. I'll never look into her blue eyes again. I pray that you'll never know the pain of losing a child". Lewandowski's mother, Sharon West stated to Edwards "...I'm not asking that you get locked up forever, I'm hoping that one day you'll understand what you've taken from us". Step father, Arthur West stated to both families, that "there's no winner here today. Both families are hurting. I just want you to own up to what you've done". At the conclusion of the impact statements, Judge David Wilson said that Arthur West was most accurate when he said that there are no winners here today.
At the conclusion of the trial, Joe Martinstated“The families of the victims suffered through two years of waiting for this trial. For them, I am glad that this part of the ordeal is over. A jury of twelve citizens, who did not volunteer for this duty, sat through a week of horrendous descriptions and photographs. I am appreciative beyond measure for their service. I pray this verdict and sentence will influence others to think very seriously about the effects of alcohol on driving. The fact that a Polk County jury sentenced a young man to 10 years in prison should give pause to others before they drink and drive.”
Polk County District Attorney,Lee Honsaid “It has concerned me greatly for some time that there is a segment of the population in this county, most commonly found among our youth, which seems to encourage and promote the irresponsible use of alcohol--especially as it relates to alcohol use and the operation of motor vehicles The potential for tragedy in today’s society and on today’s roads and highways is just too great. I think this case exemplifies in the most tragic way imaginable, why drinking and driving should no longer be tolerated—can no longer be tolerated—in this county. Because of the poor choices of one young man involving the use of alcohol and a vehicle, two families have sustained devastating emotional losses. One family lost two beloved family members. The other, lost a young man to prison. This tragic wreck, in and of itself, should be enough to discourage other young people from making similar bad choices. But I’m thankful this Polk County jury also had an opportunity to express our community’s disapproval of this type of unlawful, dangerous behavior in a very just and meaningful way.”
ORIGINAL STORY BELOW
20 year old Caleb Luke Edwards sits in District Judge David Wilson's Court on December 9, 2014.
Local 20 Year Old on Trial Facing 2 Counts of Manslaughter, LIVINGSTON, December 9, 2014 - A trial is underway for a tragic accident that happened two years and 1 day ago (December 8, 2012). On that evening, Caleb Luke Edwards (18 at the time) was driving on US-146 near providence road. Edwards was driving in the north-bond lane of 146 in a full size 1 ton Dodge pickup when his truck veered into the south-bound lane and slammed head on into a small Chevy S10 pickup. The impact took the life of a brother and sister who were in the Chevy. 17 year old Jacob Gerrit Klein and his older sister, 33 year old Tiffany Lewandowski. Edwards escaped serious injury and was only bumped and bruised.
Prosecutor Joe Martin explained to the jury of 12 that when the first emergency responder on the scene showed up (Deputy Jacob Chapman with the Polk County Sheriff's Office), Chapman asked Edwards if he had had any alcohol. Edwards stated that he had consumed a couple of beers. When primary investigator Trooper Allen Stanton arrived, he asked Edwards the same question, Edwards stated that maybe two to three beers. Stanton asked Edwards the same question again, and Edwards stated maybe four beers. When Stanton asked yet again, Edwards said maybe five beers and some Crown Royal Whiskey. Martin stated to the jury that he will provide sufficient evidence to convict Edwards of two counts of manslaughter.
Edward's defense attorney, Joe Scott Evans alluded to the jury that alcohol isn't the contributing factor in the accident. If found guilty, Edwards is facing from 2 to 20 years in prison. If Edwards gets sentenced to 10 years or less, the time could be shifted to probation (rather than prison). The trial could last through Thursday. Click here for related story.
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