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  • 26 Dec 2014

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Ashley Chavez sentenced to prison for fatal hit-and-run

Nancy Schoeffler was killed on March 31


On Monday Ashley Chavez, the long-sought driver suspected in the hit-and-run death of a 63-year-old Portland woman, abandoned her "not guilty" pleading.

As part of the Multnomah County plea deal reached with the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office, she was sentenced to 75 months, or more than six years, in prison. 
Ashley Chavez had been charged with second-degree manslaughter, among other charges, in connection with the West Burnside hit-and-run death of Nancy Schoeffler on March 31. Investigators said Schoeffler was on a nighttime walk near her home along West Burnside Road and Southwest Tichner Drive at about 11:30 p.m. when she was struck.

Police said Chavez and her friend went to a Timbers game at Jeld-Wen Field and started during before the game. Investigators said they determined Chavez was drinking during the game. After the game, Chavez returned to the same bar where she started drinking before the game, to consume more alcoholic beverages, officers said.

Chavez arrived in the courtroom crying Monday morning, escorted by her attorney. Chavez's attorney, Amy Margolis, said her client feels horrible about what happened and will struggle with this case every day.

In a note to Schoeffler's family — read by the judge in court — Chavez wrote about "an overwhelming amount of sadness that fills me," saying she is "truly sorry."

As she was lead out of the courtroom, Chavez turned to the Schoeffler family and softly apologized for leaving the scene of the crash. 
Solara Schoeffler was in court Monday, wearing a white rose in honor of her mother.

As part of her plea deal, Chavez will never be able to drive again. 
Her brother, Joshua Chavez, was next in court to make his pleading. He was accused of helping Chavez try to cover up the hit-and-run. 
Prosecutors also had claimed that Joshua Chavez made threats to kill his sister's boyfriend, Christopher Rhea, if Rhea didn't get in on the cover up.

In court Monday, Joshua Chavez pleaded guilty to three counts of hindering the prosecution. He will be sentenced to 60 days in jail, community service and three years of probation.

Joshua Chavez, who eventually cooperated with officers, said he "is very sorry" for what he did to help his sister cover up her crime. 
He's also being ordered to attend alcohol treatment. His attorney said he is an alcoholic. He too apologized to the Schoeffler family in court Monday.

Next in court was Ashley Chavez's boyfriend, Christopher Rhea. He pleaded guilty to two counts of hindering prosecution. He will get 40 days in jail, 200 hours of community service and a three-year probation for buying the parts used to repair Ashley Chavez's after it was damaged in the crash. 
Fourth in court for this case on Monday was Billy Collins Jr., the husband of Angela Kaps-Collins — Ashley Chavez's passenger at the time of the crash. Collins Jr. pleaded guilty to two counts of hindering prosecution. He is being sentenced to 30 days in jail, community service and probation. 
Angela Kaps-Collins also was sentenced Monday to 40 days in jail for hindering prosecution. As Ashley's passenger, she testified against Chavez before a Multnomah County grand jury. 
Finally, the person considered "least involved" with the cover up, Jose Alberto Torres, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence. He has been sentenced to 10 days behind bars. The 28-year-old worked with both Ashley Chavez and Angela Kaps-Collins; he had been charged with a felony count of Hindering the Prosecution and a misdemeanor count of Tampering with Physical Evidence.

Sgt. Todd Davis with the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Divison credited his team of investigators for solving the case after a tip came into Crime Stoppers.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Chuck Sparks said he has never seen a cover up span so many people.

Davis said this case goes to show how one person's tip can be the one clue officers need to help solve a case.

Sparks could not recall the exact nature of the tip that officers got, but said it was specific and led them to Chavez and her family.

During the cover up, there were two meetings at Ashley Chavez's parent's home to discuss the ways the group would go about hiding from police, Sparks said.

Judge Youlee Yim You called the case "extraordinary" as she left the bench. "I can't imagine what your family has gone through," she said looking at Solara Schoeffler who wore a necklace carrying her mother's ashes.

Brent Weisberg contributed to this report.