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Driver sentenced for fatal 2015 crash

November 10, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — A woman involved in a fatal crash that killed two people in 2015 was sentenced to up to five years in prison Wednesday, but family members of one of the victims said they were frustrated by a plea agreement that reduced the charges in the case.

The defendant, Rebecca Vetter, will receive credit for time served — about six months — toward her sentence and will have to pay restitution. Her attorney declined to comment on the sentencing.

Vetter, of Brandon, Mississippi, was indicted earlier this year on two counts of first-degree negligent homicide in April in connection with a collision that killed Rick Dupont and Sean Henshaw.

On May 9, 2015, police said, Vetter was traveling southbound on Queen Kaahumanu Highway when she crossed the center line around 7:30 p.m.

The woman’s car sideswiped a northbound vehicle before striking a motorcycle, also headed north, head on, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

Dupont, the motorcycle’s operator, and his passenger, later identified as Henshaw, were thrown from the motorcycle on impact.

Both were later pronounced dead at Kona Community Hospital.

On May 10, police announced that they had arrested Vetter on suspicion of negligent homicide but released her pending further investigation.

In April 2017, the indictment was filed in the case. The document alleged for each count that Vetter was under the influence of a drug that impaired her ability to drive. The delay in the filed charges was attributed to follow-up inquiries from prosecutors and requests for further interviews.

In August, Vetter entered a guilty plea to two counts of second-degree negligent homicide. She has also pleaded guilty to unauthorized possession of confidential personal information, an allegation stemming from a separate case. She originally faced first degree negligent homicide charges.

Dupont’s family criticized handling of the case in conversation with West Hawaii Today, specifically the plea agreement and impact of a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that said defendants can’t be coerced into submitting to blood or breath tests to detect drugs or alcohol.

An allegation of being under the influence is among what distinguishes first-degree negligent homicide, a class B felony, from second-degree negligent homicide, a class C felony.

Rick Dupont’s daughter, Jacqueline Dupont said they were told that blood tests wouldn’t be admissible in court, raising a concern about the case moving forward at all, which played a big part in prosecutors accepting a lesser plea.

“It could’ve just been thrown out,” she said.

But Jacqueline Dupont added that tests for drugs and alcohol are important for law enforcement to determine the facts of a case.

“That’s part of the investigation,” she said.

As far as the decision to reduce charges, she called it “erroneous.”

“It’s so frustrating,” she said. “And I know we’re not the only family going through this.”

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chase Murray said they don’t know exactly how Vetter’s case would have played out with that court ruling in place.

In a statement to the court, Rick Dupont’s father, George Dupont, said the crash “has affected six generations of this family.”

“My eldest granddaughter was expecting at the time,” he said, “and now my two great-grandsons will not have the opportunity to get to know and love their grandfather.”

And it’s not any easier for a family coping with the loss.

“There’s nothing you can do; it’s always gonna be there,” said Keikilani Dupont, daughter of Rick Dupont.

“We’re always not gonna have a dad,” added Jacqueline Dupont. “My grandpa’s always not gonna have his son.”

While closure might not be at hand, Jacqueline Dupont said they’re trying to get to the “next part of the book.”

“Because as far as closure, I mean, of course we’re never gonna have our dad back,” she said.

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