Alex pleads guilty in traffic death

Man accused of killing UAS student in head-on collision

Posted: Sunday, May 20, 2007

Five days before his trial was to start, David Alex pleaded guilty for his role in the August 2005 traffic death of University of Alaska student Jody Watson.

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Alex, 24, pleaded guilty during a change of plea hearing Wednesday in Juneau Superior Court. His agreement dropped the primary charges of manslaughter and evidence tampering to a lone count of criminally negligent homicide.

The agreement reduced the penalty range from a maximum of eight years to five years in prison. Language in the agreement also prohibits Alex from receiving a sentence greater than that of his codefendant, Stephanie Smathers.

"They should be treated equally," defense attorney David Seid said.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins set an October sentencing date for Alex, who is free on bail.

Codefendant Stephanie Smathers pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in January. As part of her plea, 20-year-old Smathers agreed to testify against Alex.

Smathers' sentencing hearing is set for June 20, after she returns from a treatment facility.

Seid hoped that Alex would seek similar clinical treatment program before his sentencing next fall, but he would not discuss the nature of Alex's proposed treatment.

Toxicology reports in court files show that Alex and Smathers had similar Oxycodone levels in their blood the day of the crash. Alex also tested positive for marijuana.

The pair were indicted last July, 11 months after killing Watson in a head-on collision with Watson's car on Brotherhood Bridge.

Alex and Smathers were fighting as he lost control of a van and drove across the centerline on Glacier Highway. Smathers said that Alex turned around and punched her as she rode in the seat behind him.

Watson, 25, was a senior in the UAS liberal arts program and had transferred to Juneau from Ketchikan. She worked in the UAS bookstore.

Diane Souron, Watson's mother, joined last Wednesday's hearing via teleconference. Souron told the judge that Alex's October sentencing date was unfair.

"Two years after the accident," she said.

• Greg Skinner can be reached at greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.



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