Man gets year in jail for death
Teen's best friend was killed in alcohol-related accident
Steamboat Springs — The parents of John Campbell said Friday the death of their son was enough punishment for Mario Lintz, but 14th Judicial District Judge Joel S. Thompson disagreed.
Despite pleas for leniency by Bruce and Brenda Campbell and Lintz’s family and friends, Thompson ordered the 19-year-old Denver man to serve one year in the Routt County Jail for killing his best friend in an alcohol-related accident last summer.
“What happens in the future?” Thompson asked during the emotional hearing. “Do I need to be concerned about others?
“My goal is to make sure he can be rehabilitated so I don’t have to worry about the safety of the public. A substantial jail sentence is appropriate for your future success.”
Lintz and his family were crushed by Thompson’s decision not to impose a 90-day jail sentence that had been recommended by the Routt County Probation Department.
Lintz, who is a sophomore at Metropolitan State College in Denver, can finish the semester but must report to the jail by June 1.
Many members of Lintz’s family cried as they left the courtroom. Lintz’s father had to be restrained from approaching the bench. Family members had to push him out of the courtroom.
“It’s my own fault,” a teary-eyed Lintz said as he left the courtroom behind his father.
Lintz was given the jail sentence for pleading guilty to vehicular homicide, two counts of third-degree assault and driving under the influence for the July accident that killed his best friend, Campbell, 19, of Denver.
The vehicular homicide charge could be dismissed if Lintz stays out of trouble for three years.
He has been placed on supervised probation for the felony but could be sentenced for the charge if he violates the terms of his probation in the next three years.
Lintz pleaded guilty to the charges because he lost control of a vehicle in the early morning hours of July 1 on County Road 62 in North Routt County. Lintz did not have a license at the time.
On the county road just off C.R. 29, the car went off the side of the road and flipped onto its roof.
Campbell was ejected from the 1995 Toyota Celica and pronounced dead at the scene. Lintz, who had a blood-alcohol content higher than the state’s legal limit of 0.10, and the vehicle’s owner, Leslie Gibson, 19, of Steamboat Springs, were injured and taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center.
A fourth person in the car, 19-year-old Zachary Wurtzebach of Denver, escaped with minor scrapes and bruises.
Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James said he was forced to offer the plea agreement to Lintz and his attorney, Kristopher Hammond. He also did not argue for longer than 90 days in jail for Lintz.
St. James said blood tests taken from Lintz the morning of the accident weakened his case.
“There is a strong likelihood of not prevailing if this went to court,” St. James said. “This case would be a long shot.”
At issue with the blood samples taken from Lintz at Yampa Valley Medical Center is that the first test was taken three hours after the accident, which showed Lintz had a BAC of 0.104.
A second test taken an hour later showed Lintz’s BAC had increased to 0.119.
“It is impossible to determine what Lintz’s alcohol content was at the time of the accident,” Hammond said.
St. James said the plea agreement was reasonable based on the blood tests and the Campbells’ stance on the case.
From the outset, the Campbells notified prosecutors they did not want charges filed against Lintz.
Brenda Campbell said Lintz was their son’s closest friend, and she and her husband have been friends with Lintz’s parents since the boys were babies.
“I know in my heart that Mario had no malicious intent the night of the accident,” Brenda Campbell said. “He is sorry. Two lives should not be ruined over this tragedy.
“To me, it just doesn’t seem right a 19-year-old should be sent to prison.”
Bruce Campbell said Lintz would be punished if he should slip up during his three years of probation.
“If Mr. Lintz doesn’t clean up his act, and clean up his act quickly, he will have to deal with the Colorado Department of Corrections,” Campbell said.
Campbell said the case revolved around underage drinking, driving illegally and disobeying curfew.
“I don’t condone it,” Campbell said. “I didn’t condone it in my own son. I don’t condone it in Mario Lintz. It has cost my family.”
After Mario posted a $5,000 cash bond days after the accident, he went and apologized to the Campbells.
Brenda Campbell said a depressed Lintz will come to her home frequently and sit in her son’s room.
During the hearing, Lintz, dressed neatly in a suit and tie, apologized again.
“I want to tell you how deeply sorry I am you lost your son,” a choked-up Lintz said facing the Campbells. “I’m sorry. Thank you for supporting me.”
Hammond and Lintz’s mother said the young man has to live the rest of his life knowing he killed his best friend.
“He feels tremendous guilt for it,” Hammond said. “It is greater than this courtroom and greater than this community. Mr. St. James can’t make it worse, and I can’t make it better. He is going to suffer and that suffering is never going to go away.”
Said Michelyn Lintz: “He fights depression daily. His motivation is to get up and do the right thing.”
Lintz said her son is dedicating his life to his friend and that he is working harder in college.
In the end, Thompson was not convinced. The judge said he had to send a message to the community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
Thompson also expressed concern that Lintz has a prior criminal record and has continued to drink alcohol since the accident.
“He hasn’t demonstrated a strong desire or ability to succeed,” Thompson said. “But I’m giving you an opportunity to demonstrate you can rehabilitate yourself.”
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Time seemed to stop for Matthew Engle for a few seconds after he heard crunching metal last week while he was in downtown Steamboat Springs.