Jenna Holm, who was previously charged with involuntary manslaughter for her role in the death of Bonneville County Sheriff’s Deputy Wyatt Maser, was sentenced to one year in jail Thursday.
The sentence, which was the result of a plea deal reached Wednesday, will result in no new jail time, as Holm has already served 19 months in jail. She remains incarcerated at Bonneville County Jail for a misdemeanor drug offense.
Holm originally was charged with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault after Maser was killed while responding to a single car crash involving Holm.
Holm rolled her car on May 18, 2020, near the intersection of Bone Road and Lincoln Road.
Holm was hostile to law enforcement when they arrived on scene, did not respond to requests to stop and swung a machete at Maser. She was incapacitated with a Taser, but as Maser crossed the road to handcuff her, he was hit by a patrol car driven by sheriff’s Sgt. Randy Flegel, who was arriving at scene.
The misdemeanor sentence Holm received is a far cry from the potential penalties she faced when first charged. Holm faced 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter, but that charge was dismissed after District Judge Dane Watkins Jr. determined the legal theory of her guilt presented by prosecutors did not hold up.
Maser’s family told the court that they did not believe justice had been served for his death, and that they were insulted Holm was allowed to plea guilty to a misdemeanor.
Several family members, including Maser’s father, Christopher Maser, and Wyatt Maser’s widow, Paige Maser, said they also felt Flegel should be held responsible for his role in Maser’s death.
“Having the actual person who killed my husband, Sgt. Flegel, not have a single repercussion and still be able to put on the same uniform that my husband is buried in and continue to work for the sheriff’s office is appalling to me,” Paige Maser said during her victim impact statement.
Flegel has continued to work for the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office after an internal investigation did not find him at fault. Holm’s attorneys have accused investigators with the Eastern Idaho Critical Incident Task Force of not properly investigating Flegel, citing that the lead investigator labeled Holm as the only suspect early on.
Defense attorneys have pointed out Flegel was driving 90 mph toward the scene of the crash, and was moving at over 50 mph at the moment he hit Maser, after hitting his brakes.
Christopher Maser told the court his son told him he believed law enforcement should be held to a higher standard because they take an oath to enforce the law.
“He said that ‘If I’m going to uphold the law, I need to follow it,’” Christopher Maser said. “I just hope that someday Sgt. Randy Flegel will be held to account for his part in Wyatt’s death as well. I have no idea why this has not been done. If Wyatt was a civilian, would he have been held to account? If it were a civilian who hit him, would they have been held to account?”
Maser’s family did not let Holm off the hook, however, telling her that her lack of cooperation and drug use brought Maser to the site of his death.
“The choices you made May 18, 2020, destroyed the life of my son,” said Sandra Arnold, Maser’s mother, in a written statement.
Arnold said Maser’s daughter was only 8 months old when he died and will have to learn about her father through videos and stories. She said she struggled to explain to the now 3-year-old girl why her father was not around.
Arnold added that she did not want to hear about Holm’s drug addiction or mental health issues, saying it was her choices that caused Maser to die.
Christopher Maser called Holm the “catalyst” of his son’s death. He said he felt Holm did not care about the pain she caused. He cited Holm’s arrest in January for new drug charges, saying it showed she had made no effort to change.
Paige Maser echoed her father-in-law’s statement, saying Holm had not taken responsibility or apologized for Maser’s death.
“If Ms. Holm had chosen not to partake in illegal drugs that morning, my husband would still be alive,” Paige Maser said.
“This is not closure,” Paige Maser later said in her impact statement. “Getting two misdemeanors and time served is in no way capable of accounting for the part Ms. Holm played in my husband’s death.”
Bonneville County Prosecutor Randy Neal said he first looked at Holm’s case long after most of the court proceedings, on July 25. He said he was ready to go to trial on the aggravated assault charge as recently as Tuesday, and that he knew a conviction of less than a felony would be disappointing for Maser’s family and the sheriff’s office.
Neal said that in order to prove Holm guilty of aggravated assault, however, he would need to prove that her mental illness, which includes a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder, did not compromise her ability to form intent when she swung the machete at Maser. He said that, after looking at the evidence, he did not believe she would be found guilty at trial.
“No rational juror could find that we had met our burden beyond a reasonable doubt,” Neal said.
The prosecutor added that he believed mistakes had been made during the course of the case, apologizing to Maser’s family and telling them the prosecution “fell below standards.”
Neal told Holm that the actions of law enforcement saved her life that night and that she needed to “earn” it and work to help others who have struggled with addiction and mental illness.
“I have to believe there was a reason you survived,” Neal told Holm. “You have to believe that too.”
Defense Attorney Rocky Wixom called the case a tragedy, but told the court that the evidence had made it clear Holm does not bear responsibility for Maser’s death. He cited planned testimony from a mental health expert who would have said Holm could not have formed intent for her actions.
Wixom added that, even if mental health were not a factor, he believed Holm would still be innocent. He noted that in the video recordings of the incident a deputy was yelling at her to stop while also yelling to a driver to continue on down the road. Wixom said the victim did not see emergency lights and accused the sheriff’s office of not properly identifying itself.
Neal called Wixom’s description “insulting and incredulous,” arguing that Wixom went too far by arguing Holm’s actions were rational and that law enforcement identified themselves multiple times.
Holm gave a statement telling telling Maser’s family she was sorry for her role in his death.
“I’m going to do better in my life,” Holm said.