Hood River Circuit Court was emotionally charged on Wednesday when William Young, 19, was sentenced to jail time and other penalties for his role in the narcotic overdose death of 15-year-old Chloe Walters.
"This has been a difficult case all the way around," Hood River Deputy District Attorney Shelley Webb told Judge Donald Hull. "I find it sometimes difficult to understand why kids do this and I just hope William and all the other kids in the courtroom learn from this and don't let it happen again."
Young pled guilty on Sept. 12 to the felony charge of delivering a controlled substance to a minor. Young told Hull that he had "pooled" money for heroin/cocaine with Walters and Stefani Baucom, 19, who has also been charged with culpability in the teen's June 28 death. He expressed remorse for his actions and said that he had voluntarily entered a drug treatment program prior to his Aug. 24. arrest.
"This experience has been the biggest wakeup call of my life," said Young. "Every day I think about Chloe and I wish I could bring her back. All I know is that I've been given a chance to change my life and I'm going to take it and leave my old ways behind."
Under state sentencing guidelines, Young will spend almost five months in jail, followed by 320 hours of community service to be completed during 36 months of probation. Hull, who referred to the case as a "terrible tragedy," imposed additional conditions upon Young, including a curfew for the immediate future that requires him to be home from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., except for employment or drug treatment counseling. In addition, Hull directed Young to write a public letter outlining the dangers of drug use and to speak at four area schools or service agencies about his experience. He was also ordered to pay $2,200 to the victim's family to defray funeral costs and $3,700 in court fines and fees. Hull also instructed Young to make a monthly court appearance for at least one year to make a personal report about his progress.
"You're going to have to walk the line and dot your i's and cross your t's," said Hull. "When there's a death involved there's just no room involved for giving you any breaks."
However, Walter's family members were dissatisfied with Young's sentence and referred to it as a "slap on the hand." They told Hull that he should spend time in prison and forced the teen to look at framed photos of Chloe as they delivered their parting words to him.
"You were never her friend, friends don't do what you've done to Chloe," said her grandmother Patsy Cochran. "You don't deserve to see sunshine because Chloe never will, you don't deserve to make your own decisions because Chloe never will.
"Every year you turn another year older I want you to think of Chloe, who will never grow up, get her drivers license, never succeed with her art, music or poetry."
Hull said, although he did not "feel good" about the sentenced he imposed, he believed that keeping Young out of prison would provide him with more opportunities to get his life together. He also reiterated that Young had pled guilty to the most serious Class A felony charge and the Criminally Negligent Homicide charge that had been dropped with his plea was only a Class C and would have brought a lesser sentence.
"Prison forever affects and taints you and very few people come out with any positive side. It's a terrible place," said Hull. "Putting you in prison might waste two lives and maybe this way we can save one life."
At the close of the court session Cochran embraced Young's grandparents tearfully.
In late June, Walters was found dead from a drug overdose at 6553 Dee Highway, where William resided with his mother. Baucom, who was also present at the time of her death, has been charged with Criminally Negligent Homicide, Delivery of Heroin to a Minor, Delivery of Cocaine to a Minor, Possession of a Controlled Substance -- Heroin, and Endangering the Welfare of a Minor. She will enter a plea to the charges in early October.