A Dodge County judge ruled Thursday that there is not sufficient evidence to keep the case of a Fremont teen charged in connection to June’s fatal accident in adult court.
Dodge County Judge Kenneth J. Vampola heard arguments Thursday on a motion to transfer to juvenile court the case of 16-year-old Quinton Amundson.
Amundson was charged as an adult with willful reckless driving, a Class III misdemeanor; racing on the highway, a class II misdemeanor and driving left of center, an infraction.
The charges allege that on June 3 Amundson was racing a 1966 Ford Mustang driven by Jackson Blick when Blick’s vehicle rolled on Old Highway 8 west of U.S. Highway 275, killing Blick and Tyler Walling. Trey Hansen died later from injuries sustained in the accident.
A fourth teen, Jake Burnside, was airlifted to Creighton University Medical Center in critical condition.
During the hearing County Attorney Oliver Glass called Sgt. Dustin Weitzel and Deputy Caleb Kuddes to the witness stand.
Weitzel testified he was first on the scene following the accident and was met by three visibly shaken juvenile males in the roadway. Weitzel was told what happened and began investigating the scene.
On cross examination by Amundson’s attorney Michael Wilson, Weitzel said the investigation revealed no evidence that the accident was intentionally caused by Amundson, and there was nothing cold or calculated about his demeanor.
After arriving on the scene, Deputy Kuddes told the court he began speaking to witnesses, interviewing Amundson at the sheriff’s office.
Kuddes told the court Amundson told police that on the night of June 3 he arrived at a friend’s house on Fifth Street when an Escalade and Mustang pulled up beside his Camaro. He said Blick was in the Mustang and suggested they drive around, “do something.”
The deputy testified the three vehicles ended up on Old Highway 8 west of U.S. 275. Kuddes said the vehicles lined up to race. The Mustang, driven by Blick, was on the right; and the Camaro, driven by Amundson, was on the left.
Kuddes told the court the vehicles raced in a southeast direction toward an area where the road makes a dead end into a cul-de-sac.
When questioned by police about how fast they were going, Amundson told Kuddes he didn’t know for sure because he was watching the road, but glanced down at his speedometer and thought it said 95 mph.
He continued to tell police that as the vehicles approached the dead end his Camaro was about two car lengths ahead of the Mustang. In his rearview mirror he suddenly saw the Mustang’s taillights and a large cloud of dust.
Kuddes said the occupants of the trailing Escalade told police they saw the Mustang’s taillights go airborne.
On cross examination by Wilson the deputy told the court the investigation did not find that Amundson had caused the accident or ran the vehicle off the road, and Amundson in fact was one of the people who called 911 to report the accident.
The only witness Wilson called was Michael Amundson, Quinton’s father.
He said painted a picture of a typical teenage boy. One that plays football, is on the trap shooting team and lifts weights. A fun-loving kid who does OK in school, but enjoys the social aspects more than the academic. But Michael Amundson said his son wasn’t obsessed with racing as is being suggested.
“He’s a boy, he likes cars, but he’s not talked about racing,” said Michael Amundson.
Since the accident he said his has been guarded, doesn’t talk about the accident and is emotional.
During closing arguments Glass said he is not attacking Amundson’s character, he believes the teen needs help in addressing some problems, but he should be treated as an adult in this situation.
“I’m not trying to paint Quinton as the devil, but I am trying to point out that I think he takes a lot of pride in his Camaro, and I think he takes a lot of pride in the fact that it’s fast,” Glass said. “What this kid has is a driving problem. What this kid needs is to learn a tough lesson.”
In his closing, Wilson said when the accident occurred Amundson reacted as a child would react. He argued that Amundson needed the rehabilitative services that would be available to him in the juvenile system.
“He’s been devastated about what happened,” Wilson said. “It will probably haunt him until the day he dies. If you don’t think he learned a tough lesson that night, then I don’t know what to tell you.”
Vampola quickly ruled to transfer the case to juvenile court. Seemingly emotional over the case, the judge said “there’s nothing I can say that will change this tragedy.”
Following the hearing Wilson said he believes the judge made the right decision.
“Quinton, obviously just like the families of the victims, has been through a lot,” he said. “When a child goes through something like that – I’m glad we have a court system that values rehabilitation so highly.”
Wilson said there are no winners in the case, and Amundson’s thoughts have always been with the families of the victims.
“I will never waiver in expressing the family’s condolences,” Wilson said. “They’ve done so since day one. Every time they come in to talk about his case, what’s happened, they always tell me that Quinton’s legal problems -- they’ve always been second to the pain and heart break of the families. That’s always, always been their number one concern.”