Paragraph 12 reads: "Defense attorney Glenda Kerry said Fejes, who had no record of violations, had a history of road rage and was taking the anti-depressant Effexor, which can cause hostile behavior.She tried to cut Elkins off in retaliation, Kerry said."
Paragraph 22 reads: "But after accounts of the accident made the news, Kerry said, two women contacted her to report they had witnessed extreme reckless driving by a woman in an SUV with Fejes' plates."
Driver gets three months for wreckAccounts suggest a case of mutual road rage
By JULIA O'MALLEY
Anchorage Daily News
Published: February 22, 2006
Last Modified: February 22, 2006 at 01:12 AM
A man with a long record of traffic violations was sentenced Tuesday to three months in jail for abandoning the scene of an accident that killed a South Anchorage woman and seriously injured her 10-year-old son.
Mark Elkins, 23, was originally charged with manslaughter and assault for his part in a road rage incident police said may have caused the fatal crash. But prosecutors did not have the evidence to convince a jury of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, said Sharon Marshall, assistant district attorney.
The only real question at Tuesday's hearing was whether Judge Mike Wolverton would accept a plea bargain that the victim's family objected to.
The family of Gail Fejes, the mother of three who was killed in the crash, argued through a lawyer for a stiffer sentence and walked out of the court disappointed.
"It's hard for me to sit here and tell you about the devastation, sorrow, emptiness and tears this has brought our family," Sam Fejes, Gail Fejes' husband, told Wolverton.
Accounts from all sides suggest a case of mutual road rage that turned fatal. Lawyers differ on how responsible Elkins was for the accident.
Around 11 a.m. on June 27, 2004, Fejes was driving down O'Malley Road to hockey practice with her son, Hunter, in a 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser, according to Fejes family lawyer Carmen Clark. Elkins, driving a silver truck, pulled in front of Fejes, cutting her off. She started tailgating him, the lawyers said.
She honked and "flipped him the bird," according to accounts from the defense and Clark. In response, Elkins "brake-checked" Fejes, stomping on his brakes briefly, then moving to the right to let her pass, the lawyers said. It was a section of the road where passing was not allowed. What happened next is in dispute.
Family lawyers maintain that Elkins pulled toward Fejes as she was passing him, causing her to swerve to avoid an accident and lose control.
"If you use a vehicle as a weapon, you should pay a heavy price," said Bill Ingaldson, one of the family attorneys.
Elkins has a lengthy history of traffic violations, including leaving the scene of an accident in 2000, for which he pleaded no contest and his driver's license was revoked for 30 days. Between 1998 and 2004, he had seven speeding tickets and two citations for driving without a valid operator's license as well as citations for safety restraints, tinted windows, vehicle registration or license, failure to obey a traffic device and failure to yield at a right of way. He was also cited last summer for failing to stop at a red light and driving without insurance, court records show.
Defense attorney Glenda Kerry said Fejes, who had no record of violations, had a history of road rage and was taking the anti-depressant Effexor, which can cause hostile behavior. She tried to cut Elkins off in retaliation, Kerry said.
"Mrs. Fejes made the wrong decision because she was upset. Her own desire for revenge caused the accident," Kerry said.
The prosecutor said the state couldn't prove Elkins' driving caused Fejes to lose control of her car.
Fejes' Land Cruiser flipped three times, ejecting her and Hunter. Neither was wearing a seat belt. Elkins admitted to witnessing the rollover and leaving the scene.
"I don't know why I drove away that day. It all happened so fast, I didn't think," he wrote in a letter to the judge.
Gail Fejes died at the scene. Hunter, with a fractured skull and bleeding from his mouth, was hospitalized.
Originally, police called the crash a single- car rollover. They didn't suspect otherwise until days after the accident, when Hunter recovered enough to tell them another driver had been involved. Tips from Crimestoppers pointed to Elkins.
Hunter Fejes is the only living witness, and his story was not totally consistent with the evidence, Marshall told the judge. He originally told police that he and his mother were wearing seat belts, which they were not. He also said that the truck hit the Land Cruiser, but there was no evidence of that, Marshall said.
Something close to the family's version of events may have happened, but "the likelihood Gail Fejes out of anger made a conscious decision to pass in a no-passing zone was just as great," Marshall said.
Fejes once gave driving tests for the Department of Motor Vehicles and never drove recklessly, her husband said.
But after accounts of the accident made the news, Kerry said, two women contacted her to report they had witnessed extreme reckless driving by a woman in an SUV with Fejes' plates. The women were not named in court documents.
The courtroom Tuesday was full of friends and family of Fejes. Her two daughters, Adrianne, 19, and Amanda, 17, sat in the front row.
"I know, he knows and Hunter knows there is more to my wife's death than he is telling the court," Sam Fejes told the judge.
Though they were initially angry that the sentence was only a few months of jail time, Amanda Fejes said the family was glad it was over.
"I didn't agree with a lot of it. I think there were a lot of false statements. I never saw (Fejes) driving out of control," she said. "At least he won't be on the streets for a while."
The original agreement between the prosecutor and the defense about the sentence was for 24 months with all but three suspended. Wolverton told the lawyers he wanted more suspended time, and they agreed to 36 months.
"There's no sentence that's going to fix this," Wolverton told the courtroom. "I start on one side and go all the way across the room and it's just filled with sadness."
Daily News reporter Julia O'Malley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4325.