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'She just stares into space a lot'

The parents of Lynne Michel Tibbetts say she already has suffered the ultimate punishment for her part in a horrific car crash three weeks ago on Upper Applegate Road that killed her only son and his girlfriend.

"She told us that she wishes she could trade places with them," said Tibbetts' father Gary Petrich. "Losing her son was the worst thing that has happened in her life."

Tibbetts now faces additional punishment from the Jackson County justice system, which has charged her with five serious felonies that could land her a long prison term.

Tibbetts, 47, appeared dazed Thursday afternoon at her video arraignment in Jackson County Circuit Court. During her brief court appearance, Tibbetts pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree manslaughter, three counts each of third- and fourth-degree assault and reckless driving.

The manslaughter counts each carry a mandatory minimum sentence of six years, three months in prison under Measure 11 sentencing guidelines. The assault charges also are felonies.

Tibbetts was driving an SUV toward Applegate Lake when it veered off the pavement in the 600 block of Upper Applegate Road, tumbled across a ditch and hit a tree. One man was thrown from the vehicle, two people were partially ejected, two got out on their own and four were trapped inside, emergency responders said.

Douglas Auberry, 20, and Faith Vock, 18, both of Medford, died. Auberry was Tibbetts' son and Vock was his girlfriend.

Other passengers in the SUV were Heather Jones, 18; Donald Nelson, 19; Isis Leiby, 17; Steve Crozier, 20; Abram Arnold, 20; and a 17-year-old girl whose name wasn't released.

Petrich and his wife, who asked not want to be identified, said Tibbetts remained in shock over the ordeal.

"She just stares into space a lot," Petrich said. "It's almost like none of it has sunk in for her."

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said law enforcement officials often are sympathetic to those who lose loved ones in traffic accidents in which they were driving. But it cannot stop them from pursuing charges against them if the evidence suggests their actions might have contributed to the crash.

"We have to do our jobs and make sure justice is done," Winters said. "It's unfortunate anyway you look at it, but it has to be this way."

Tibbetts is not only charged with the death of her son but also of his girlfriend, who also has family and friends grieving for her.

Petrich said his daughter always has had a soft spot for disadvantaged kids. She was known for allowing homeless teens to stay at her house when they had no where else to go, he said.

"At any time she had three or four kids staying with her," Petrich said. "If they needed food or supplies she'd give it to them."

Her parents said Tibbetts often took kids to services at the Applegate Christian Fellowship and to day trips on the Applegate River.

It was a swimming expedition that led to the accident, which Petrich said Tibbetts claims to have no memory of.

"She's confused about a lot of this," he said. "It's overwhelming."

Tibbetts' voice is scratchy and broken from the broken neck she suffered in the crash. She did not wear her neck brace during her video arraignment and seemed to be uncomfortable while facing the camera.

Petrich said his daughter has had visitors during her stay in jail. He did not know if some of them were in the SUV when it crashed that day.

"She still has people who care about her," Petrich said.

Tibbetts posted bail Thursday following her arraignment and was released from jail. Her pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Aug. 16.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Rescues workers assist a patient involved in a accident on July 17 that killed two people and injured six on Upper Applegate Road. MT File Photo - Jamie Lusch