Teen pleads no contest in fatal collision
Last updated 7/5/2022 at 3:42pm
Jason Smith, now 18, was fined $107 and court costs, Thursday after pleading "no contest" to a charge of failing to exercise due care 10 months after the pickup truck he was driving on Aug. 29 struck and killed Martha Castillo, 68, as she was crossing Clovis' Thornton Street.
Smith entered his plea and received the sentence in a hearing held in Curry County Magistrate Court before De Baca County Magistrate Judge Buddy Hall.
Hall allowed members of Castillo's family to speak, at the request of Ninth Judicial District Attorney Brian Stover.
Matthew Castillo, one of Martha Castillo's eight children, said he did not blame Smith for being "young and doing something stupid," but said he was disappointed no one from Smith's family had ever apologized or expressed sympathy to the Castillos.
Castillo also said he was disappointed with Clovis police for the slow investigation of the accident and for investigating officers telling Smith to leave the area as Smith tried to return to the place where his vehicle struck Martha Castillo.
Matthew Castillo also contested findings in the district attorney's investigation, including the finding of limited visibility on the street on which the accident occurred.
Desiree Castillo, another of Martha Castillo's children, said the family "just wants accountability" for Martha Castillo's death.
Before sentencing, Jason Smith, who appeared shaken as Castillo family members spoke, stood and issued a tearful apology.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I always wanted to apologize."
Smith's father Daniel Smith also issued an apology for this "horrible thing" that happened for the Castillo family. He said, however, he had been instructed not to contact the Castillo family. He said his efforts to learn more about the incident were frustrated, as well.
Smith's attorney, Dan Lindsey, said Jason Smith did not learn that he had struck a person who was pronounced dead at the scene for days after the incident, and when he did, Lindsey said, Smith "broke down."
Lindsey said the Smith family cooperated with police at every turn.
Stover also expressed frustration with police, and the difficulty then-DA Andrea Reeb had in receiving cooperation with the police. The DA's office had to conduct its own investigation, Stover said.
In that investigation, he said, findings included that visibility was low on the street,
Jason Smith's speed at the time of the accident was less than the speed limit, and Stover acknowledged that Smith and his passenger returned to the scene immediately, only to be turned away.
In an email, Clovis police Capt. Roman Romero on Friday stated, "Many lives were impacted by this motor vehicle accident, and we hope each family finds peace."
Romeo added, "any response we give would lead to unnecessary conflict. The timeliness and completeness of an investigation is most often inconsistent with the timetables demanded of us by prosecuting or defense attorneys."