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WSP man charged in fatal drunk driving crash
Jon David Deveraux
A West St. Paul man has been charged with more than 20 counts of criminal vehicular operation for a drunken rollover crash last November that injured several people and left the defendant’s friend lying dead in the street.
Jon David Devereaux, 22, was charged Jan. 28 with three counts of criminal vehicular homicide and 18 counts of criminal vehicular operation for the Nov. 14 crash. Prosecutors say Devereaux insisted on driving his friend’s SUV that night despite knowing he was drunk and performed several reckless maneuvers before he ultimately lost control and rolled the vehicle on the 300 block of E Bernard St.
Passengers sent flying in crash
According to the criminal complaint filed in the case, Devereaux had been drinking heavily at a friend’s home before he and his friends decided to move on to another house around 2:30 a.m. The group of eight men, all between the ages of 17 and 21, piled in to a Chevrolet Blazer; Devereaux allegedly demanded to drive the vehicle despite the fact it was licensed to the father of one of the other members of the group.
While traveling westbound on Bernard Street in West St. Paul, the passengers said they warned Devereaux to slow down, but instead he laughed and sped the vehicle up to 60 m.p.h., racing through a red light at Robert St. Devereaux then allegedly began weaving back and forth across the full width of the road, still laughing, until he lost control and flipped the vehicle, which eventually landed upright wedged atop a fence. Several of the passengers were ejected from the vehicle as it rolled.
One of the passengers told investigators he hit his head on the rear passenger side window, breaking the window and knocking him unconscious. When he awoke and began to crawl from the wreckage, the passenger said he heard Devereaux shout, “Oh, my bad — you better not snitch.”
That passenger managed to locate a friend, and together they limped off to seek medical care. Another passenger, whose father owned the vehicle, climbed into the Blazer and rocked it back and forth until it was off the fence, then drove away. Each member of the group managed to leave the scene despite injuries ranging from scrapes and bruises to splenic lacerations and a fractured mandible, save one: Robert Joseph Espinoza-Blaeser, age 21, was left bleeding in the street. He was pronounced dead at the scene by first responders who arrived shortly thereafter.
A mother’s dilemma
West St. Paul Police located the mangled Blazer parked in a driveway on the 400 block of Roeller Ave. E. later that night. As the officers began to inspect the vehicle, the man who’d driven it away from the scene emerged from the house and began shouting “He rolled my vehicle!” repeatedly. When officers asked him to identify the driver, the man agreed to lead them to the apartment Devereaux shared with his mother. Upon arrival, officers took both men into custody.
Devereaux’s mother told investigators she’d let her son into the apartment around 3 a.m.; she described him as “annihilated” by drink, frightened, and covered in blood.
In his initial statement to investigators, Devereaux claimed he had no memory of driving the vehicle or the crash. Afterward, Devereaux’s mother asked if she could speak with her son; officers told she could not meet with him directly but they would pass along a note, to which she agreed.
After reading his mother’s note, Devereaux told officers he’d like to give another statement. This time Devereaux confessed to drinking and driving the vehicle, and admitted he knew at the time he was in no condition to drive. When asked about the quantity of alcohol he consumed that night, Devereaux replied, “I had too much.” A blood sample taken from Devereaux approximately four hours after the crash showed a blood alcohol content of .12 percent.
Three of the felony level charges against Devereaux carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison each and fines up to $20,000; other charges, which range from gross misdemeanor to felony, carry potential sentences of one to three years each. Devereaux made his first appearance in court Jan. 30.
In a statement, Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom decried the incident as another example of the dangerous mix of alcohol and driving.
“Tragically, drunk driving remains one of the most significant causes of death and injury on our state’s roadways,” Backstrom wrote. “There were 131 deaths caused by drunk or impaired driving in Minnesota in 2013.”
Backstrom also expressed his condolences to the friends and family of Espinoza-Blaeser.
Charges are also under consideration for the son of the vehicle’s owner who fled the crash scene in the vehicle; however, those charges would be brought by another county attorney given the fact the man is considered a victim of Devereaux’s alleged crimes and therefore constitutes a conflict for Dakota County prosecutors.
Luke Reiter can be reached at email@example.com or at 651-748-7815.