Police seeking answers on crash

Investigation into death has victim's friends asking questions

Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2005

Friends of Jody Watson who haven't forgotten the 25-year-old woman who died Aug. 31 on Brotherhood Bridge are wondering if Juneau police have.

Assistant Chief Greg Browning said Wednesday investigators are continuing to work to determine if charges should be brought against anyone in the Plymouth van that veered into Watson's lane and her Dodge Neon on the two-lane bridge crossing the Mendenhall River.

Police reported that the van was driven by a 22-year-old man, whose name was not released. The day after the accident, Police Capt. Tom Porter said the man told officers he was momentarily distracted when he veered into traffic. Watson was a University of Alaska Southeast student and employee from Aberdeen, Wash.

"We need to be able to provide a case that can go before a judge and jury," Browning said. He can't discuss specifics about the investigation, but said officers are still following up on leads. "We're not quite there yet."

Porter recently said investigators also were waiting for test results to come back on potential evidence.

Tish Griffin Satre, a friend of Watson, said she has called the police a few times, asking what is going on in investigating possible criminal charges.

"I know both of the people who were in the other vehicle," she said. Knowing the accident killed someone must weigh heavily on them, and it must be difficult to wonder if there will be charges, she added.

But Watson's friends and family need closure, Griffin Satre said.

Brenda Pagano recently left a wreath at one of the memorials friends have left for Watson on the bridge.

"Christmas was her favorite holiday," she said. "We're putting plastic flowers out there because of the weather."

She said she keeps looking for an announcement by police following up on Watson's death.

Pagano supervised Watson, who worked at UAS as a business services cashier. Less than four months later, Pagano no longer works there, and another woman she worked with has left as well.

"She made our area what it was," Pagano said.

Every day she drives across the Glacier Highway bridge, where, in addition to flowers, orange plastic still covers the hole Watson's Neon left in the metal bars next to the inbound lane.

"I do not cross that bridge without telling her how much I love her," Pagano said.

"Her picture's still up in the bookstore," said Griffin Satre, whose office as UAS student services director was next to the area where Watson worked. "It's been real tough."

Browning of the police department said he would not comment on rumors surrounding the accident and said he couldn't answer questions about the nature of the tests being conducted. Automobile accident reconstructions sometimes can be complicated, he added.

Police will announce when they have completed their investigation and whether they are recommending charges to the district attorney, he said.

"We need to be patient," Browning said. "If we do things too soon, we may jeopardize the outcome of the case."

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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