A driver involved in a two-car accident that killed a Bellevue resident was sentenced in Blaine County Magistrate Court Wednesday after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges.
After an emotional four-hour hearing, Kaytlyn Ann Graefe, 20, was sentenced to serve 348 days in jail. The court also suspended her driver’s license for one year and ordered fines, community service and probation for a minimum of two years following release.
Graefe is a resident of Shoshone. She will serve 180 more days of jail on top of 168 she has already served.
Bellevue resident Georgina Ubence, 37, died in the accident.
The courtroom was nearly full as friends and family of the victim and the defendant gathered to hear what justice would be found for Ubence, who left behind a husband, five children, parents and siblings, when her vehicle was struck by Graefe’s car on Aug. 19, 2018 south of Timmerman Junction on State Highway 75 in Blaine County.
When their car was struck, Ubence and her husband, Javier, flew through the windshield. She was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
Graefe was charged and jailed on Jan. 25, 2019. more than five months after the accident, on three misdemeanors including vehicular manslaughter, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.
In exchange for a guilty plea to the manslaughter and possession of a controlled substance charges, the Blaine County prosecutor dismissed the paraphernalia charge.
Investigators found that Graefe’s Chevrolet Sonic was set at 59 mph on cruise control as she was driving south on state Highway 75 around 7 p.m., crossed the center line and struck the passenger side of the Ubence’s vehicle that was traveling north.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Graefe admitted at the scene of the accident that she had fallen asleep. A first responder reported that she repeated over and over again, “I fell asleep, did I kill her, please tell me I didn’t, I fell asleep I didn’t mean to.”
Those words were only the tip of the iceberg in Deputy Prosecutor Angela Nelson’s argument that Graefe was not only a negligent driver that evening, but that Graefe had an extensive history of traffic citations, drug offenses and poor self-control when it came to controlled substances.
Court documents show that Graefe had been sentenced in Lincoln County Magistrate Court on Aug. 17, two days before the accident, on one misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance. Judge Mark Ingram sentenced her to one year of probation and a one-year suspended jail sentence.
Magistrate Judge Jennifer Haemmerle, who presided over Wednesday’s hearing, said that Graefe obviously had no intention of remaining sober, per the previous probation order, because first responders found two baggies of marijuana and a soda can altered to function as a pipe in the glove compartment of her car after the accident.
“To me, that is repulsive behavior by you,” Haemmerle said.
No evidence was presented that indicated Graefe was under the influence of any substance at the time of the accident, only that she was in possession. However, Graefe was on probation for multiple drug-related offenses in multiple counties.
Nelson said Graefe continued to fail drug tests following the car accident, with traces of fentanyl, THC, oxycodone, benzodiazepine, cocaine and other opiates found in her urine samples.
Some of those drugs were prescribed by a doctor in Pocatello after Graefe was life- flighted for a broken femur she sustained in the accident, according to her defense attorney Selim Star.
Javier said in his victim’s impact statement that the judicial system failed him and his dead wife after it repeatedly gave Graefe suspended jail sentences and continued to put her on supervised probation, which she continuously violated.
“If somebody would have been doing their job the right way, my wife would still be here,” Javier said in court. He added that if the judge had imposed a jail sentence on Graefe in the previous case on Aug. 17, she would have been in jail the day of the accident, and his wife would still be alive.
Both of Graefe’s parents spoke, sharing that Graefe has long suffered with mental illness and used illegal drugs to suppress emotional and psychological pain.
Graefe’s father, Robert, said that his daughter attempted suicide three times after the accident and that she repeatedly asked why she hadn’t been the one killed, instead of Ubence.
Graefe’s mother, Debra, spoke directly to the Ubence family, telling him, “We are so sorry that this happened. If I could have taken my life instead of your daughter, I would have.”
Before imposing sentence, Judge Haemmerle said that “there is a ripple effect of victims,” in this case that spreads far beyond the woman who lost her life due to the negligence of another.
In addition to jail time, $500 in fines, court costs and reimbursement for the use of a public defender, Graefe also was ordered to pay restitution and child support to the Ubence family.
Details of the restitution and child support amounts will be discussed at another hearing that had not been scheduled as of press deadline Thursday.