A former Petersburg borough employee Wednesday pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter in the van wreck that killed two people and injured a third on July 4th, 2016. Sentencing is scheduled for December.
25-year-old Chris Allen changed his plea after coming to a sentencing agreement with the state that will mean dismissal of other charges of murder and assault and will mean he does not go to trial. That was scheduled to happen this summer.
Allen appeared from a Fairbanks courtroom by teleconference before superior court Judge Trevor Stephens in Petersburg. Stephens asked Allen about his understanding of the sentencing agreement and the rights he was giving up with the guilty plea.
“If we go through the process today and you enter the plea and the admission per the agreement, I will schedule the case for sentencing,” Stephens explained. “We’ll talk about when the sentencing would occur at the conclusion of the hearing today. And if we come in at sentencing and I impose what you agree to, I impose 16 years, I suspend nine years leaving seven years to serve, you cannot appeal that. You cannot ask the Alaska Court of Appeals or the Alaska Supreme Court to decide that sentence is mistaken because that’s what you agreed to going in. Do you understand that?”
“Yes sir,” Allen responded.
Allen was driving a borough van that went off the road and flipped over just south of downtown that morning. Allen and the three other borough employees were helping to set up for a running race for the borough’s Independence Day celebration. The crash killed 18-year-old Molly Parks and 19-year-old Marie Giesbrecht, the daughter of the borough manager. The state brought second degree murder charges against Allen, alleging he ignored doctors’ orders not to drive after a documented history of seizures.
The judge has final say on the length of the jail sentence and will also have to decide on length or conditions of probation. Attorneys for the two sides will be arguing those conditions over the next three months.
Allen made no statement other than to answer yes to the judge’s questions and enter the guilty plea.
Friends and family of both the victims and the defendant were in the Petersburg courtroom Wednesday. It’s expected that some will be making a statement during sentencing. That was scheduled for Monday, December 10 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse in Petersburg. With his guilty plea Wednesday Allen was taken back into custody and will be in jail awaiting that sentencing.
Meanwhile, Allen, the Petersburg borough and the state also face a civil suit from the family of Molly Parks.