Richard Rose wept as he begged his victim for forgiveness during his sentencing Wednesday in Deschutes County Circuit Court. But in jailhouse recordings that were played in court for the judge, he laughed at that man, Terry Neil.
Rose also blamed his own passenger — a friend — for contributing to the 2015 crash that claimed Neil’s vision and good health and seriously injured the passenger.
Rose pleaded guilty this month to driving under the influence and to two counts of third-degree assault. In exchange, he got five years and three months in prison, a five-year driver’s license suspension, and a $39,000 compensatory fine to Neil, which, as Judge A. Michael Adler said, was “just a fraction of a percent” of Neil’s considerable medical expenses.
Neil told The Bulletin the real cost is somewhere in the millions.
Adler’s courtroom was packed Wednesday with an apparent even split of supporters of Neil, an Army veteran and Sunriver-area businessman who maintained rental properties around Deschutes County, and Rose, 22, who started his prison sentence following the hearing.
The case involves a head-on collision Aug. 11, 2015, between a Dodge pickup driven by Neil and a Ford Explorer driven by Rose. It was about 8 a.m. on a sunny morning on U.S. Highway 97 near the High Desert Museum when Rose crossed the double-yellow centerline, and an empty travel lane, and collided with Neil’s truck, traveling about 75 mph.
Both Neil and Rose’s passenger, Caleb Weeks, suffered life-threatening injuries. Weeks survived.
Neil was pinned in his seat. He had compound fractures in his legs, and he could see bones. He said he was afraid to look at his legs, but using what he thought could be his last moments alive, he called his wife to tell her he’d been in a bad wreck and she should go to the hospital.
“My life ended that day,” Neil told the court. “It’s just taking me a long time to die. I guess I’m too stubborn to give up.”
Neil, 63, had broken nearly every major bone below his neck. Since the wreck, he’s suffered kidney failure and strokes and has worked hours every day at learning how to walk again.
Worst of all, he was blinded completely as a result of a medically induced coma, he said.
“Being blind is the worst thing that can happen to you,” he told The Bulletin before the hearing. “It’s like being in a black box all the time.”
He regularly gets lost walking around his home and has to call his wife to find him.
The couple is now in the process of selling the home.
Months after the wreck, following blood tests and other investigative work by Oregon State Police, Rose was charged with seven crimes, including the Measure 11 offense of second-degree assault.
According to the prosecution, Rose had been at a party the night before the wreck, and witnesses testified he’d supplied the party with Xanax and cocaine, according to Matt Nelson, deputy district attorney, who showed Adler a picture of Rose from the party snorting a “white powder that appears to be cocaine.”
Rose was found to have four drugs in his system at the time — marijuana, cocaine, Xanax and ketamine, though he claimed repeatedly in online posts to have merely fallen asleep at the wheel.
Nelson also read to the judge a letter by Rose’s grandfather calling the young man a “manipulator” who made money selling cocaine and other drugs.
Rose is the oldest of 10 siblings. He has a fiancee, and an ex-girlfriend days away from giving birth to his child, Rose’s mother told the court.
Rose’s mother also repeated the claim that her son had fallen asleep behind the wheel in remarks to the judge.
“I am tired of hearing about him falling asleep behind the wheel,” Adler said. “He has now pleaded guilty to driving under the influence. Maybe he did fall asleep, but it wasn’t just because he was tired. No one’s tried to say this was ‘intentional.’ It was ‘reckless,’ and that’s where the drugs come in.”
Rose asked to address Neil directly in court, which Adler approved.
“I am so sorry for the pain that I have caused you and your family,” he said. “I am not the child I was three years ago. I beg you to please forgive me.”
At the time of the crash, Rose was on diversion treatment for a DUII arrest in 2015.
Nelson played for the court several videos of interactions that Rose had with visiting friends as an inmate of Deschutes County jail in February 2017.
Rose cried with his head down as he listened to himself call Weeks a “snitch” and suggest his defense try to prove Neil’s vision was too poor prior to the wreck to be driving.
Adler noted Rose was receiving a far lighter prison sentence than one he gave a defendant weeks ago in the same courtroom. In that case, David Fincher, a former paramedic with no criminal record, received 22 years for killing 2-year-old Marley Peterson and injuring several others.
Friends and relatives said Neil was a vivacious presence prior to the wreck.
He built his first house at 17. And at 60, at the time of the collision, he’d recently remodeled one of his rental properties.
Adler praised Neil, whom he called “one of the most impressive people” he’d seen in his 20 years as a judge.
In interviews with The Bulletin, Neil and his wife, Joyce, said though they wanted Rose to serve time in prison, in the end, they decided they wanted him to turn his life around. The Neils supported dropping a charge of second-degree assault from Rose’s indictment, in exchange for him pleading guilty.
Second-degree assault is a Measure 11 offense, and under Oregon law, Rose would not have been eligible for drug treatment in prison.
“I don’t have a lot of faith in someone going into our prison system and coming out a better person,” Joyce Neil said.
The Neils’ daughter, Kristie DeMoisy, read a brief statement to the judge reiterating the family’s desire that Rose be punished but also given an opportunity to change.
“Something good has to come from this,” she said.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org