MADRAS, Ore. - A 37-year-old Prineville man, weeping and asking forgiveness from the victim's family, pleaded guilty to criminal negligent homicide and received a five-year prison term Friday in last year's car-motorcycle crash on Highway 97 south of Madras that fatally injured Jefferson County EMS manager Don Heckathorn.
Gerald Scott Greene entered the guilty plea before Circuit Judge Daniel Ahern to that charge, as well as a felony hit-and-run charge (failure to perform the duties of a driver), said District Attorney Steven Leriche. He initially was charged with manslaughter, which could have led to a longer sentence.
Green turned himself in to Oregon State Police in late August after learning of an arrest warrant issued on criminal negligent homicide and felony hit-and-run charges in the Aug,. 8 crash.
Oregon State Police said a 1996 Cadillac driven by Green was heading east on SW Dover Lane that afternoon when he failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with a northbound 2012 Harley-Davidson motorcycle operated by Heckathorn.
The 64-year-old Madras man died of his injuries six days later at St. Charles Bend. Green was unhurt in the collision.
"There were no noticeable signs of impairment," in terms of drugs or alcohol use by Green, Leriche said.
"In the OSP investigation, Green admitted he knew the stop sign was there, but didn't stop because he was in a hurry," the prosecutor said, adding, "There was evidence he was talking on his cellphone near the time of the crash."
Leriche said the evidence showed Green crashed into Heckathorn, but continued driving across Highway 97 and down Dover Lane, followed by others, then turned around and was on scene when police arrived. The charge of hit-and-run involves the failure to immediately stop, he said.
Heckathorn's family supported the plea agreement that resolved the case, Leriche said, adding that the victim's widow, Elizabeth, and two sons attended the hearing, and she spoke to the court about their great loss.
"Capt. Donald Heckathorn was much beloved in Jefferson County, and his family and the community miss him dearly," Leriche said.
State court records showed Green was cited eight times between 1995 and 2010 for driving with a suspended license, and was convicted of speed racing, driving uninsured and speeding in urban areas.
His driver's license was revoked several times, last reinstated in 2006, court records showed.