Juneau resident Ryan West, 25, was indicted by a grand jury on Friday for second-degree murder following a single-vehicle crash that resulted in the death of 19-year-old passenger Gabriel Carte.
West will be arraigned Thursday in Juneau Superior Court.
The charge of murder in the second degree is an unclassified felony punishable by a fine of up to $500,000 and a maximum of 99 years in jail.
West has been jailed at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center with no bail.
The accident occurred June 6 near Mile 35 of the Glacier Highway.
According to a Juneau Police Department press release, officers arrived on the scene to find a green 1994 Dodge pickup truck with extensive damage to the undercarriage, roof and passenger side. A preliminary investigation revealed that West and Carte were in the vehicle when it lost traction on the roadway and drove into the ditch rolling over several times.
Police stated that Carte sustained fatal injuries as a result of being ejected from the vehicle. West was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital and released with minor injuries. JPD Sgt. Paul Hatch said alcohol and speed were factors in the crash, which closed the highway for more than two hours.
West was on probation at the time after a Feb. 20, 2009 incident. A 19-year-old woman was seriously injured when she was dragged by West’s truck. He eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree theft and action of an operator, essentially leaving the scene of an accident. West had no prior felonies and was sentenced to prison time and placed on probation.
West had his probation revoked on June 8, and appeared in Juneau Superior Court on June 9 when the case was reopened after interviews with West concerning the fatal vehicle accident involving Carte.
At his next appearance on June 14 to meet with public defender Kevin Higgins, West broke down into tears and was visibly distraught as Higgins consoled him.
On Aug. 24, Judge Keith Levy accepted an adjudication deal between Higgins and District Attorney Dave Brower regarding the probation violations on a flat time sentence, which is to be disposed on Sept. 6.
Brower said at the time that charges were pending on the current case.
If West had completed his probation without any violations, the convictions would have been set aside.
Said Higgins at that time, “But we are here now with these pending petitions and what he has decided is to refuse probation, which everybody has a right to do in Alaska, and he will have no chance to get these convictions set aside. He will be sentenced to a flat time and will have to serve that time and won’t be on supervision when he gets out. He is not taking the easy way out here.”
West, a Juneau-Douglas High School football star and 2004 graduate, was the subject of an earlier Juneau Empire story in May of 2009. That story detailed his descent into drug addiction after a knee injury he suffered while playing football at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.
That dependence on pain pills led to an oxycodone addiction and resulted in West meeting a woman in a parking lot off Old Dairy Road for a fake drug deal he had set up. West had planned to steal money from a buyer. The woman passed the money through the window of his truck and he fled the scene going more than 40 mph while the woman clung to the side of the truck. That incident resulted in the woman being seriously hurt and West’s initial arrest on Feb. 20, 2009.
West stated in that interview that he hopes others learn from his mistakes and the dangerous addictive qualities of oxy. West stated he hoped young people in the community to know that drugs will take them nowhere.
“I would tell them it’s not worth it because later in life it could sneak up real quick on you and you could end up going to Lemon Creek, going to jail, doing something you never thought you would,” West said in that article.
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.