An ex-El Paso County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced Thursday to a mix of probation and jail in a July 2018 chain-reaction crash that killed an elderly couple and broke a man’s back.
Quinlan Linebaugh, 30, was ordered to serve four years of probation and 60 days in jail or in jail work release in the crash that killed Kenneth Wuerfele, 75, and Dorothy Wuerfele, 71, and severely injured a dump truck driver east of Falcon.
El Paso County Court Judge Laura Findorff, who imposed the penalty, ruled he won’t have to start serving his time until February.
She said the delay is to give El Paso County jailers a chance to work through special security arrangements that might be necessary because Linebaugh is a former law enforcement officer. He was fired in August 2018 after six years as a deputy because of the fatal crash.
The sentence capped a 20-month saga that has also generated a wrongful death claim against El Paso County. An update about the status of the claim wasn’t available, but court records do not show a lawsuit pending in the state courts.
It’s unclear why the judge left open jail and work release as options. Normally, one or the other is imposed, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacqueline Kirby.
If Linebaugh ends up in El Paso County work release, he would spend his nights at the sheriff’s work release center, a secure facility adjoining the Robert A. Harris Judicial Complex on South Tejon Street, and would be freed during the day to work.
A jail sentence would normally be served at El Paso County Jail, 2739 E. Las Vegas St.
Authorities say Linebaugh tried to pass two vehicles in the face of an oncoming dump truck, which swerved to avoid him and slammed into a pickup carrying the Wuerfeles.
“That son-of-a-gun sped up like a rocket, and I got out of the way,” dump truck driver James Stutsman told the judge during trial, saying he had to slam on the brakes to avoid a head-on crash.
The Wuerfeles were killed instantly in the ensuing collision, and Stutsman was thrown through his windshield and landed on the exposed engine, breaking his back. A second occupant of the dump truck was injured and has since recovered.
The defense asked for a bench trial and tried to persuade the judge that Stutsman was to blame for overreacting with deadly results.
Findorff dismissed the argument, saying Stutsman’s split-second decision to jerk the wheel “seemed to be a natural reaction.” In body camera footage, Linebaugh admitted he was going 75 mph in a 65 mph zone and also made a statement about not seeing the Wuerfeles’ pickup, even though it was one of the two vehicles he tried to get around.
The judge also rejected testimony by a former police officer who conducted an analysis concluding that Linebaugh didn’t make contact with other vehicles that day. Findorff said paint transfer showed the deputy clipped the dump truck before it collided with the pickup.
Relatives of the Wuerfeles described them as kind people and brought a framed photograph of them to the hearing. They declined to comment on their way out of court.
Linebaugh, who apologized to the victims and their survivors, works in the UCHealth system, he told the court. He did not respond to questions as he left.