A jury last week found that Ray L. Free, 57, was not criminally responsible for a crash that caused the deaths of Boise residents James Frontino, 62, and his wife Rosanne, 59.
Free ran a red light as he turned right from Pleasant Valley Road onto Gowen Road on Oct. 5, 2015. His semitrailer, carrying sand and gravel, rolled and landed partially on the Frontinos’ pickup, which was also traveling east.
James Frontino died from blunt force trauma. Rosanne Frontino died from asphyxiation after being crushed, Ada County Coroner Dotti Owens said.
Free was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter. What led to his acquittal? Maintenance issues with the truck, according to recordings of the trial.
The wreck occurred after the truck’s brakes failed, said David Judd, a prosecutor with the Boise City Attorney’s Office. Free knew the brakes were defective yet chose to drive the truck, owned by Mobile Concrete.
Free notified the company that the brakes needed work, including once in writing, Judd said. One tire was also so worn down, its steel belts were visible. Judd argued Free was negligent in continuing to drive the 1992 Peterbilt despite its condition.
Free compensated by driving more slowly and by gearing down early — at a distance of 600 yards, the equivalent of six football fields — when he had to slow down in anticipation of a stop or to turn a corner, Judd said.
“Obviously he knew the brakes were bad. Obviously, he should not have gotten into that vehicle,” Judd told the jury in closing statements.
The defense countered that the deaths were the company’s fault for failing to act on Free’s maintenance requests.
“They maintained those vehicles negligently and that’s what caused the accident,” defense attorney Heidi Johnson said.
In rebuttal, Judd said Mobile Concrete wasn’t on trial and that any action against it would take place in a civil suit. No such suit has been filed so far, according to online court records.
Mobile Concrete couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Friday afternoon.
The jury deliberated for about two hours on Feb. 3 before delivering its verdict.