Driver who ran over couple to be mentally evaluated; GoFundMe set up for victims’ families

Flowers and candles have been left in the area where Matthew and Amelia Parkinson were struck by a car on June 24 in Fruitland. Both died at the scene.
Flowers and candles have been left in the area where Matthew and Amelia Parkinson were struck by a car on June 24 in Fruitland. Both died at the scene.

A 37-year-old Fruitland driver accused of intentionally running over and killing a young couple who were walking on a city sidewalk last week will receive a mental evaluation to determine if he’s fit enough to stand trial on murder charges, a magistrate court judge said Tuesday.

Jason L. Verwer was arraigned on two counts of second-degree murder in Payette County Court. He faces 10 years to life in prison and a $15,000 fine on each count.

The victims of the Jan. 24 collision were Matthew A. Parkinson, 23, of Kuna, and his wife, Amelia Parkinson, 17. A GoFundMe account has been set up to raise money for their families. (Click here to donate.)

A funeral service for friends and family has been set for 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 2, at Holy Apostles Catholic Church in Meridian. Organizers have asked that the media respect their privacy. Accent Funeral Home in Meridian is handling funeral arrangements.

Payette County Prosecutor Ross Pittman told Judge Robert Jackson that one of the witnesses to the collision did not see Verwer brake at any point as he veered off of U.S. 95 and struck the young couple.

Verwer was traveling at a high rate of speed in the fast lane, Pittman said. The posted speed limit in that section of highway is 45 mph. The highway cuts through the heart of Fruitland, a town of about 4,700 residents an hour northwest of Boise.

The Parkinsons, who were walking on the sidewalk along the highway on the south side of Northwest Third Street, were dragged through the intersection before Verwer’s car slammed into vehicles parked in front of Keithly-Williams Seeds, Pittman said. Verwer made some gestures before leaving the crash scene on foot and was apprehended at a nearby Maverik store.

Pittman said prosecutors are unaware of any connection between Verwer and the Parkinsons. He told the judge that was one of the reasons he recommended keeping Verwer’s bond at $1 million, or even doubling it to $2 million.

“His threat to the community is great,” Pittman said. He noted that Verwer’s criminal history includes sporadic misdemeanor convictions from 2004 to 2010, with the most serious a 2009 domestic battery case out of Nevada. He said Verwer was charged with a second-offense felony but a jury found him guilty of misdemeanor domestic battery.

Jackson opted to keep bond at $1 million. If he is able to post bond, the conditions of Verwer’s release say he may not be in the driver’s seat or front passenger seat of any vehicle. He also must wear a GPS device and cannot leave the Treasure Valley.

Verwer, dressed in green-and-white striped prison clothes Tuesday, told the judge he had lived in Fruitland about a year and earned about $1,200 a month at Dickinson Frozen Foods. He remembered his address but couldn’t recall his phone number or how much money he has in his bank accounts.

Jackson appointed Payette County Public Defender Phillip Heersink to represent Verswer, and Heersink asked for a co-counsel, attorney Kelly Whiting, to be assigned as well due to the complexity of the case.

A status conference hearing was set for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 12.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller