Driver in I-70 accident that killed Carbondale Montessori teacher sentenced to four years
August 1, 2018
After Jeffrey Burk, 31, pleaded guilty in June to one count of vehicular homicide, one count of attempt to influence a public servant, and one count of third-degree assault for injuring a Colorado state trooper, 9th District Chief Judge James Boyd on Tuesday handed down his sentence.
Roughly a year after the incident occurred, Burk was sentenced to four years in the Department of Corrections for one count of vehicular homicide for the death of Shaw Lewis in a wreck on Interstate 70 near Silt.
Burk also was sentenced to four years in prison for one count of attempt to influence a public servant, and one year in the Garfield County Jail for third-degree assault resulting in injury to a Colorado State Patrol trooper.
Burk will serve the sentences concurrently, after which he is to do an additional three years of parole.
According to officials, on Aug. 16, 2017, Burk was driving 104 mph before the time of the crash, which resulted in the death of Lewis and injuries to Colorado State Trooper Charles Hiller.
Hiller had pulled over Lewis, near mile marker 94 on I-70, and had his head inside the passenger window of Lewis’ Honda when Burk’s Dodge Ram crashed into the vehicle, killing Lewis instantly and injuring Hiller.
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Burk, who has a form of epilepsy, wrote at the scene of the accident, “I felt a small seizure happening, so I scanned my magnet, head & chest. Saw the cop in the median and slowed to 70 mph. Remember going a little further. Then waking up and wondering why my truck was beat up.”
In May 2016, Burk was involved in another wreck in Vail when he rear-ended a car. Burk told police investigating that incident that he experienced a seizure before that crash, too.
Following the 2016 incident, according to court papers, Burk renewed his license online and checked a box denying he had a seizure disorder.
After being moved to a larger courtroom to sufficiently house the number of people in attendance for Burk’s Tuesday sentencing hearing, the court heard hours of statements from family and friends before the prosecution and defense lawyers closed with their arguments. Those arguments centered around whether or not Burk should serve prison time.
Some who spoke in favor of the prosecution labeled Burk as being “drunk off entitlement” and one told Judge Boyd, “I’m relying on you to show me that I can trust this system regardless of the capital involved.”
Those sitting behind Burk painted the defendant as a shy, humble man who had a condition at no fault of his own. Burk, himself, at one point also exercised his right to speak and read a brief letter to the court he had written to the victim’s family.
“I believe in second chances, I really do,” Assistant 9th District Attorney Ben Sollars said. “I do think a sentence to the Department of Corrections is appropriate.”
The defense, however, argued that, “This was not a malicious, intentional act,” and pointed out the VNS and RNS procedures Burk underwent to control his condition.
While Judge Boyd was sympathetic to Burk’s situation, he was at the same time troubled and disturbed at Burk’s willingness to still get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, thus putting the entire public at risk and ultimately taking the life of a husband, father, friend and teacher.
Lewis, who lived in Rifle, was a teacher at Ross Montessori School in Carbondale.