In a vehicular homicide case that initially sought the death penalty, a Fountain Hills man driving the wrong way on Loop 101 in Scottsdale pleaded guilty on Tuesday to second-degree murder in the death of a young man killed in the crash.
David Szymanski, 24, who was fleeing police moments before the April 2005 tragedy, entered into a plea agreement that also had him plead guilty to two counts of aggravated assault for seriously injuring two others in the crash.
Killed in the crash was Cody Morrison, 22, of Scottsdale, an events planner at Rio Salado College in Tempe who also bussed tables for the Kona Grill at Scottsdale Fashion Square mall. Matthew Lewis, the driver of the car Szymanski hit, and passenger Nicholas Rosin, both 23, were seriously injured.
Szymanski entered into a plea agreement that involved nine other related charges being dropped, including first-degree murder, criminal damaging and disorderly conduct, according to information from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Szymanski will be sentenced on Oct. 12, and could face up to 22 years in prison, according to information from the county attorney’s office.
He will be credited with the time he has spent in jail since April 2005.
Morrison’s parents, Mark and Denise Morrison, and Cody’s older sister and lone sibling, Shanda Carrithers, all of Scottsdale, told the Tribune on Tuesday they were happy and relieved that the case avoided trial because they did not want to keep reliving the tragedy.
“I think my brother would be happy for this,” Carrithers said of the plea. “It’s been a rough time for all of us. We never wanted the death penalty or a life sentence as vengeance or anything. We hope (Szymanski) gets the full 22 years, so it’s not quite over, yet.”
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas initially had pushed for the death penalty in the case soon after tests revealed Szymanski had cocaine in his system and his blood alcohol content was nearly twice over the legal limit.
But, Thomas withdrew his office’s intent to seek the death penalty in September after a Scottsdale Police Department review board found the officers who chased Szymanski violated the department’s pursuit policy, which states, in part, that pursuits only are permissible if the suspect has committed a violent or dangerous felony or if an immediate threat to human life exists.
Szymanski fled police after he had an altercation with a Scottsdale woman on April 7, 2005, and drove north in the Loop 101 southbound lanes near Shea Boulevard when his Chevrolet crashed into Lewis’ Ford Escort.
Morrison’s parents had received a $1 million settlement from Scottsdale, while Lewis and Rosin each received a $500,000 settlement.
“It’s not going to bring Cody back, but I hope this makes him (Szymanski) realize the mistakes he made in his life,” Carrithers said.
“I miss Cody dearly. He had a nephew he was attached to and he was just getting his life going. He’s missing out on all of that,” she said.