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Marine who killed West Valley woman in crash sentenced to prison

Published May 30, 2012 4:40 pm

Court • Defendant was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007.
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An Iraq war veteran who killed a 60-year-old woman during his third impaired-driving offense since being wounded in service has been sentenced to prison.

Scott Paul Kelly, 27, appeared in 3rd District Court on Wednesday and was sentenced by Judge Denise Lindberg to up to five years behind bars.

The West Valley City man was driving in that city on Redwood Road last May when he slammed into the rear of a car driven by Jerelyn Willden.

The woman, also of West Valley, was slowing for a red light and, police said at the time, there was "not much braking, if any" by Kelly. According to court documents, Willden's car was pushed into an intersection where it was hit by a FedEx truck.

Kelly suffered minor injuries. Willden's injuries were fatal.

Defense attorney Sharla Dunroe called the case a "terribly tragic situation for everyone involved," and a case with "some irony."

Kelly — a U.S. Marine who suffers from traumatic brain injury, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder after being injured by a roadside bomb in 2007, during his second tour of duty in Iraq — "devoted his life to protecting the lives of thousands of people," Dunroe wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

"For him to find himself in this situation is ironic and also incredibly painful," Dunroe said Wednesday.

Kelly was determined to be disabled by Veterans Affairs standards and appointed a fiduciary to care for his finances. For his pain, he was given medication, but eventually the medication was taken from him and he "turned to other sources to medicate himself," Dunroe wrote.

According to police documents, Kelly had methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin in his system at the time of the fatal crash. Dunroe said Kelly has no memory of the episode.

In 2008, Kelly pleaded guilty drug- or alcohol-related reckless driving counts in two separate cases, according to court records.

Earlier this year, Kelly pleaded guilty to a count of third-degree felony automobile homicide in connection with Willden's death. As part of a plea deal, two other charges were dismissed, including a misdemeanor count of driving with a measurable controlled substance in his system.

Willden's family has filed a wrongful death suit against Kelly and others who, they claim, should have prevented Kelly from driving because of his disabilities and drug use. The lawsuit seeks more than $7 million in damages.

afalk@sltrib.com