A Tempe man has taken the unusual step of pleading guilty as charged rather than accepting a plea bargain in a drunken driving crash that killed a mother and daughter and critically injured a father and son.
Next up for Christopher Linton, 27, will be a Dec. 10 sentencing hearing where a judge will determine whether he deserves leniency or a long prison sentence.
Linton pleaded guilty Oct. 15 to two counts of manslaughter and one count each of aggravated assault and endangerment, crimes that carry a combined penalty of seven to 60 years in prison.
Linton’s attorney, A. Melvin McDonald, said Linton passed on a plea offer they found to be unreasonable, but he also didn’t want to go to trial.
"The feeling is there is a very, very high probability that if he took it to trial he would be convicted, and he doesn’t want to go through it, doesn’t want to put the family of the victims through it, and so he said, ‘I did it,’ " McDonald said.
Wendy Ford, 37, died instantly in the crash, which also left her husband, Thomas, in critical condition and their 8-year-old son with a concussion. Their daughter, Haley, 10, spent 20 days in a coma before she died.
According to court records, Linton was at almost three times the legal limit for intoxication when he ran a red light at Miller and Pinnacle Peak roads in Scottsdale.
He smashed into the Fords’ van at 57 to 60 mph.
McDonald said Linton had just completed his last final examination of his senior year at Arizona State University when the crash occurred.
"I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and this is one of the most heartbreaking cases I’ve ever dealt with," McDonald said.
"This is the case that should be the poster-child case for DUI, where people don’t realize the wonderful people who make this mistake of judgment can absolutely devastate their lives and other lives," he said.
McDonald said he is going to seek leniency for Linton, an only child who is a "good kid who made a horrific mistake."
Thomas Ford could not be reached for comment.