J.D. Stimson will serve three years in prison for criminally negligent homicide and driving under the influence in the vehicle crash death of his friend Enrique Zamudio in August of 2016.
“This has been the hardest, most painful, brutally honest year of my life and I can only imagine what it’s been like for the Zamudio family,” Stimson said during the sentencing at the Cordova courthouse on Dec. 5. “I lost someone I loved deeply.”
Through tears, Stimson addressed the court and Zamudio family, “I’m sorry for not learning my lesson the first time. I’m sorry for putting Enrique and the community in danger and I’m sorry for ripping the darkest, most painful hole into the Zamudio family.”
Stimson, then 19, lost control of his vehicle and struck a utility pole on August 9, 2016 on First Street near the ferry terminal, according to Cordova police records. Zamudio, 18, a passenger in the vehicle, was fatally injured.
Stimson had a breath alcohol concentration of .105 percent at the time of the crash. Alaska’s legal blood alcohol limit for driving is .08 percent.
He was arrested on four charges, including vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, driving under the influence and misconduct involving weapons in the fourth degree.
Stimson pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and DUI, and was convicted of those two charges on Sept. 13 of this year. The other two charges were dismissed.
He was remanded to Anchorage Department of Corrections and awaited sentencing in the Cook Inlet Pretrial facility in Anchorage.
Stimson’s sentence of seven years to serve, with four suspended, will include five years of supervised probation with general/alcohol conditions, including no alcohol.
Enrique’s mother, Kathleen Zamudio, spoke to the court about her son’s passion for music. “I would always listen, turn off the T.V., and sit upstairs and listen to him,” Zamudio said.
She also spoke of his involvement in wrestling, lifeguarding, band, choir and drama. Enrique graduated from Cordova High School in May 2016, working throughout his final year to earn money for college. He dreamed of one day becoming a successful musician, she said, adding that she will miss hearing his music.
“When I talk about my boys, I realize I won’t have any more memories of my boys together,” she said. “I have my eldest son, who is now my only son.”
Adam Zamudio, Enrique’s brother, addressed chronic alcohol-related issues in rural Alaska during his comments to the court. “I don’t believe that it should take a fatal incident to get the point across,” he said, adding that teenagers are not being properly held accountable for their actions. “(J.D.) will have the rest of his life to grow and learn and Enrique has none of that and he never will,” Adam Zamudio said.
Superior Court Judge Pro Tempore Daniel Schally spoke on the impact of drug and alcohol abuse in rural Alaska before delivering the sentencing.
“Minor consuming’s in the state are all too common … 95 percent of what I do involves drugs or alcohol,” he said. “It’s true all over the place. It’s true in Sand Point, in Ketchikan and Craig and Nome and Valdez and Glennallen and here.”
Enrique’s father Keith Zamudio also spoke at the sentencing. He said you never get used to the death of a child but you learn to live with it.
“All the evidence that we heard today with regards to rehabilitation is all well and fine, but time will be the true measure of what J.D. accomplishes,” Keith Zamudio said. “I’m sorry that it took the death of my son to make J.D. understand that a life change is in order.”
In addition to the three years of incarceration, Stimson must pay a $1,500 fine and has been ordered to complete 150 hours of community work service. He must also contact the Cordova School District within 60 days of release from incarceration and arrange to speak to students about his crime and its effect, according to court documents.