“Tyler Callahan, you took most of my life on March 29, 2016,” the letter read.
That day, Callahan’s Chevrolet Impala went off an Interstate 84 overpass, landing on top of a pickup on Nampa’s Northside Boulevard.
In the pickup was John Pew, 64. The Nampa man did not survive the crash.
Callahan, a 22-year-old Weiser resident, was sent to jail for up to one year Tuesday for the incident. Patty Pew, John’s wife of 44 years, wrote the above sentence in one of three letters from family members read in court before the sentencing.
John Pew’s daughter, Misty Johnson, outlined what a great father he was and how she never had the opportunity to say goodbye.
“He is innocent. He is the one that lost his life and now my family will forever be affected by the negligence of Tyler Callahan,” she wrote.
Callahan may only have to serve a few months. Magistrate Judge Debra Orr set a followup hearing for Sept. 8, at which time she’ll decide if Callahan should be released and put on probation.
That probation will last two years, and on release, Callahan’s driver’s license will be suspended for three years.
Orr told Callahan to spend his time in jail thinking of real ways he can honor Pew, and to bring those thoughts with him to the September hearing.
Their exchange was interrupted by a parent of one of Callahan’s passengers, whom a baliff escorted out after an outburst and other disruptions.
Callahan earlier pleaded guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. The crash occurred as he drove west along the overpass above Northside Boulevard.
When asked why he was guilty, Callahan told Orr that on the day of the crash, a friend had asked for a ride to Boise. When he arrived as his friend’s house, another juvenile — whom he did not know — was also there. Callahan claimed they offered him money to drive them to Boise; he later learned they were both escaping from a rehabilitation center.
Eventually, Callahan said he told the two boys he needed to take them back to Weiser because he needed to wake up for work soon.
“I fell asleep, lost control of the vehicle, woke up and all I could see was broken glass and blood in front of me and I was in shock, walking on a broken foot,” Callahan told the court. “I could see that there was another car but I wasn’t as worried about it as I should have been. … I didn’t realize until later at the hospital when an officer told me (Pew died).”
Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Kimberlee Bratcher told the court the investigation was lengthy, in part because of a wait for toxicology results.
Bratcher said Callahan failed to disclose that he and the boys did stop at Walmart and steal a substance to inhale. Callahan denied partaking in the actual use of the substance, she said, but investigators couldn’t tell for sure because the substance leaves a person’s system quickly.
He did test positive for an opiate and an anesthetic, but investigators determined paramedics administered those after the crash for his injuries, Bratcher said.
Because there was no apparent substance use at the time of the crash, Bratcher said, prosecutors chose to charge Callahan with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, which implies negligence, instead of felony manslaughter, which implies reckless driving.
Remorse, yet concern over probation
Defense attorney Jonathan McCabe said he had no doubt his client was remorseful.
“When my client came into the first meeting, he wanted to take responsibility,” McCabe said.
McCabe said Callahan’s actions were “an act of simple negligence” with no criminal intent.
“He is incredibly sorry and from the get-go in talking with him he did not try to diminish what happened, he did not try to minimize what happened,” McCabe said. “He has not tried to avoid responsibility here.”
Callahan has previous convictions for misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, misdemeanor inattentive or careless driving, and several speeding citations.
Additionally, in the months between the accident and prosecutors filing the charge, Callahan used marijuana, alcohol, and failed to comply with court-ordered treatment stemming from a past conviction, Bratcher said.
Bratcher argued that this was evidence of Callahan’s inability to obey probation.