Updated March 26, 2022 - 11:17 am
An Arizona man pleaded guilty Tuesday to three counts of DUI causing death in a Nye County crash that killed three members of a family almost a year ago.
Tyler Kennedy, 33, charged with having fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, could receive a maximum of 60 years but could serve much less, according to the plea agreement. The sentence range is two to 20 years for each count.
The crash on March 27, 2021, killed Idaho residents Michael Durmeier, his fianceé Lauren Starcevich and Michael’s 12-year-old daughter, Georgia. Michael’s son, Jackson, now 11, suffered brain trauma, and Starcevich’s daughter, Emerson, 6, broke her wrist in the crash.
Nye County District Court Judge Robert Lane will determine whether each count is served concurrently or consecutively during a sentencing hearing scheduled for July 19. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss two counts of DUI causing injury and five reckless driving counts.
Family members of the victims said they were relieved they wouldn’t have to go to trial and risk an acquittal or conviction on lesser charges.
“It’s a lot of emotion,” said Chelsea Roberts, Georgia’s mother and Durmeier’s ex-wife. “In my mind, I feel like I’d rather be in control than have a 12-person jury in charge.”
Durmeier’s mother, Gina Durmeier, called the plea a “relief” when she learned it was final.
“I didn’t want Jackson to go through that again,” she said, referring to her grandson who likely would have had to testify.
Kennedy was driving his truck north on U.S. Highway 95 between Beatty and Goldfield when he crossed the middle line and crashed head-on with an SUV Durmeier was driving south on a family spring break trip, police records show.
At the crash scene, investigators found a baggie of a “crystal-like substance” that appeared to be meth from Kennedy’s truck, police said. Kennedy told investigators that he takes Adderall and had used meth three days before the crash.
Kennedy, of Tolleson, Ariz., has a history of traffic citations and an Arizona arrest for shoplifting.
His public defender, Jason Earnest, declined comment after the hearing but said in court that the state’s case was flawed. “There’s a real issue with the state’s inability to prove under the influence,” he told Lane.
Nye County District Attorney Chris Arabia said the case had problems but he is satisfied Kennedy will spend significant time in prison.
“This was an unspeakable tragedy and we can only hope that this resolution brings some closure to the families and sends a strong message that DUI causing injury on our Nye County highways is disgraceful and comes with the harshest penalties,” he said in a press release. “This was a tough case because the blood draw was after the two-hour window for presuming intoxication but my Chief Deputy and I put a lot of time into this and were able to build a very strong case.”
“If you drive while drunk or high, you could kill someone, and if you live you’ll face decades in prison,” Arabia added.