Five years in prison

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Gerald Scott GreenThe 37-year-old man who ran a stop sign and collided with a motorcycle driven by the former Jefferson County ambulance chief was sentenced to five years in prison for criminally negligent homicide on May 16.

A tearful Gerald Scott Green, of Prineville, pleaded guilty in the Jefferson County Circuit Court to negligently causing the death of Don Heckathorn, 64, as well as failure to perform the duties of a driver to injured persons, both Class B felonies.

The incident occurred on Aug. 8, 2013, at the intersection of Southwest Dover Lane and U.S. Highway 97. Green was eastbound on Dover Lane in a 1996 Cadillac, failed to stop at the stop sign, and struck Heckathorn, who was southbound on U.S. Highway 97 on a 2012 Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Green continued on Dover Lane, but was pursued by other motorists, and returned to the scene, according to Heckathorn's son, Marc Heckathorn, undersheriff at the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

Besides fleeing the scene, Green had 11 previous convictions for driving offenses, but had a valid license at the time.

District Attorney Steve Leriche presented information at the hearing that Green was aware of the stop sign, but was in a hurry, and didn't stop. Police did not find evidence of impairment at the time, however, in subsequent blood tests, he tested positive for marijuana and methamphetamine, and phone records indicated that he was on the phone at the time of the crash.

Don Heckathorn was critically injured in the crash, and transported by Lifeflight to St. Charles Bend, where he died from his injuries on Aug. 14, 2013.

In late August, Green turned himself in after an arrest warrant was issued for him on felony charges of criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene.

Regarding the sentence of five years for the crimes, Heckathorn said that the family had met with the district attorney, who kept them informed throughout the process, so they were aware of the potential sentence.

"It was what we were willing to accept in lieu of going to trial," he said.

Don Heckathorn's widow, Liz, spoke for the family at the sentencing hearing before Judge Dan Ahern.

On Monday, she said that she couldn't say whether it was a fair sentence, "but we had agreed to allow him to plea rather than go to trial."

"I would hope that people would pay attention to what they're doing when they're driving and it would raise public awareness to the fact that cell phones have no place while driving," said Liz Heckathorn, who is now the Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services chief.

"(Green) made a choice; Don didn't have a choice," she continued. "He took the life of a father, husband, brother ... I believe he's sincerely sorry; whether he'll change his behavior remains to be seen."

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