A drunken driver involved in a crash that lacerated a toddler's liver received a relatively light sentence Wednesday in part because the major accident reconstruction team was responding to another crash in which an intoxicated driver's 6-year-old daughter was killed.
Camejo Debus, 48, of the 300 block of Live Oak Loop in Central Point, was sentenced to 60 days in jail, three years' probation, a $500 fine and a five-year driver's license suspension after pleading guilty to third-degree assault and driving under the influence of intoxicants. Restitution is yet to be determined.
Jackson County Circuit Judge David Hoppe reluctantly agreed to follow a sentencing recommendation worked out in plea-deal discussions between the prosecution and defense.
"You got a really good resolution on that, especially with a small child with life-threatening injuries," Hoppe told Debus.
He warned her never to return to his courtroom again.
Prosecuting the case was complicated by various factors, said Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Marco Boccato.
According to witnesses, Debus was turning left on a flashing yellow turn signal April 15, 2016, when she collided with another vehicle carrying the toddler that was driving straight through a green light, Boccato said.
However, the Serious Accident Reconstruction Team, made up of local law enforcement agencies, was responding to another crash, he said.
Necia Marie Hanson, 28, of Gold Hill is facing manslaughter, assault and DUII charges after she allegedly collided the same day with a semi truck north of Central Point, killing her daughter and injuring her son.
A Jackson County sheriff's deputy who responded to the crash involving Debus said he smelled alcohol on her breath, and she admitted to having two beers with dinner. The crash occurred at the intersection of Biddle Road and Table Rock Road in north Medford, according to an affidavit written by the deputy.
The deputy said Debus consented to field sobriety tests, but was unable to perform them. She was taken into custody and transported to the Jackson County Jail, where she refused to give breath and blood samples.The deputy obtained a search warrant for a blood sample, which was drawn at Providence Medford Medical Center, the affidavit said.
Debus had a blood alcohol content of 0.14 percent, Boccato said, above the 0.08 percent legal limit.
When the toddler in the other vehicle was transported to a hospital, doctors found he had a lacerated liver as a result of the crash. The boy, who was 2 years old at the time, was life-flighted to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland.
He is expected to make a full recovery, although he is being monitored for any lingering effects, Boccato said.
Boccato said he believes the case against Debus could have been proven at trial, but it would have been more difficult without the full Serious Accident Reconstruction Team investigation.
Further complicating the issue, the driver of the vehicle carrying the toddler had methamphetamine in his system. The toddler was also improperly restrained, because he wasn't in a correctly sized car seat, Boccato said.
Debus had no criminal background or previous DUII convictions, he said.
"This is a situation where we have a woman with no prior history of criminal behavior and no drinking-and-driving history. It goes to show whenever you get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicant, you never know what could happen," Boccato said. "A 2-year-old could be seriously injured, and you could have a felony on your record. You put yourself at risk and everyone in the community at risk."
He said driving under the influence of intoxicants can have life-altering consequences.
"It goes to show the risk of drinking and driving for your everyday citizen," he said. "Driving under the influence is a selfish crime. You're putting your own convenience ahead of the safety of others."
Debus did not make a statement in court. After her plea hearing, she broke down in tears in the court hallway. She declined to speak to the press.
— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.