Former Grand County High School (GCHS) student Gage Colton Moore will plead guilty to charges related to a crash that caused the death of two peers in March, his attorneys said after a July 21 court hearing. Moore, 18, waived his right to a preliminary hearing in 7th District Juvenile Court in Monticello and will enter pleas in adult court to two second-degree felony counts of automobile homicide and two counts of reckless endangerment, class A misdemeanors.
Moore will enter the guilty pleas in 7th District Court in Monticello, one of his attorneys, Tara Isaacson, said.
Defense attorney Walter Bugden said Moore made the decision to enter the adult system and waive the preliminary hearing in order to “accept responsibility for this horrible accident” and spare affected families the emotional trauma of numerous court proceedings.
“It’s a very significant decision by Gage to agree to plead in the adult court. He did that hoping that this would help everyone move on,” Bugden said outside of court. “It’s been terribly emotional for everyone, and certainly for Gage.”
San Juan County Attorney Kendall Laws agreed that Moore should be prosecuted as an adult.
“It gets Gage Moore into the adult system, where he belongs, for what happened,” Laws said.
Moore turned 18 just four days after the March 5 accident, which occurred in the early morning hours after the GCHS junior promenade dance. The five teens involved in the wreck had reportedly attended the dance as audience members.
Moore was driving a 2003 Subaru sedan when he lost control on a curve on the La Sal Mountain Loop Road south of Ken’s Lake sometime before 7:30 a.m. on March 5. Three teens were ejected in the crash and two — Connor Denney, 16, and Taylor Bryant, 14, were killed. Denney was a sophomore and Bryant was a freshman at GCHS.
Daniel McCrary, a 17-year-old sophomore at GCHS and Tierney DeMille, 14, an eighth-grade student at Grand County Middle School were critically injured in the crash.
None of the occupants of the vehicle were believed to be wearing seat belts, according to the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the accident.
“Rather than having these families go through multiple probable cause hearings, Mr. Moore thinks the best thing for all concerned is accepting responsibility for these actions in adult court,” Bugden said, speaking before a full courtroom as family members of the deceased embraced and comforted one another.
A handful of Bryant’s friends and relatives wore matching red T-shirts bearing her image, depicting their deceased loved one wearing a crown of leaves.
Moore was silent and stoic throughout the proceeding.
Under conditions of an April 28 court order, Moore is barred from having any contact with potential witnesses. He is also still subject to certain monitoring provisions, including random drug or alcohol testing and a nightly curfew, and is prohibited from operating any kind of motor vehicle.
Shortly after the March 5 accident, San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge told The Times-Independent that he and Laws would be “aggressive” in their efforts to prosecute any laws broken in connection with the crash.
In April, Moore was charged in juvenile court with two counts of second-degree felony automobile homicide, two counts of third-degree felony driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and one count each of class B misdemeanor reckless driving and unlawful possession of alcohol by a minor.
Moore also was charged with one count of second-degree felony sexual abuse of a child and lewdness involving a child, a class A misdemeanor. The San Juan County Attorney has declined to explain the basis for the sex-related charges.
On July 20, prosecutors amended the automobile homicide charges to two counts of second-degree felony manslaughter. The other counts remained unchanged.
But after a lengthy, private deliberation between Moore’s lawyers and prosecutors on July 21, 7th District Juvenile Court Judge Craig Bunnell ordered Moore bound over on just four charges — two second-degree felony counts of automobile homicide and two counts of reckless endangerment, class A misdemeanors.
Moore will have an initial appearance on those charges on August 14 before Monticello’s 7th District Court at 2:30 p.m.