A Fairfield man pleaded guilty to three counts of felony vehicular manslaughter and one count of aggravated driving under the influence this week stemming from a crash last August that killed three sisters under the age of 7. Sentencing is scheduled for July 29.
Matthew Richard Park, 46, was involved in a vehicular accident last August that the left three children dead and a man partially paralyzed. According to court records, Park admitted to police that he had been drinking since noon on Aug. 9 when he got in his vehicle and began to drive home early on Aug 10.
An investigation determined a blue 2000 Dodge Neon driven by Somchai Ray Lee Lurak, 26, of Mountain Home, with passenger Emma Weigand, 26, also of Mountain Home, in the front seat and Lurak’s three daughters, ages 3, 5 and 6 in the back seat of the car, all in car seats, was stopped at the construction light traveling west on U.S. Highway 20 when Park, in a white 1995 Dodge pickup, also traveling west, collided with the rear of the sedan in the westbound lane. Two of the children, the 5- and 6-year-olds, were pronounced dead at the scene. The 3-year-old died later at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center.
Suspecting that Park was intoxicated, deputies at the scene gave him a field sobriety test and collected breath samples. According to court records, his breath tests registered alcohol concentrations of 0.191 and 0.189. The legal limit in Idaho is 0.08.
This week's change of plea marks a shift for Park's defense, which dates back some nine months. At an arraignment in September, Park pleaded not guilty to all charges, and the prosecution asked for a six-day jury trial. The trial was initially scheduled to begin Feb. 19, but that trial date was vacated, according to court records. At a status conference in March, defense attorney Doug Nelson told the court that a he was negotiating a plea agreement on Park’s behalf. Nelson said the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office had offered a plea agreement and Nelson had sent a counteroffer.
Prior to the deal, Park faced a maximum of 75 years in prison if convicted on all counts.