The man who prosecutors say drove drunk and killed a Colorado State Patrol trooper in November 2015 was sentenced to eight years in prison on Tuesday.
Eric Henderson pleaded guilty in May to vehicular homicide and tampering with the evidence.
According to court records Eric Henderson drank before, during and after the Denver Broncos game on Nov. 15, 2015, killing 33-year-old Trooper Jaimie Jursevics. District Attorney George Brauchler told the court Henderson's blood-alcohol content at the time of the wreck was .199 -- nearly 2.5 times the legal limit.
“He should’ve known better,” Joseph Torres, Jursevics’ father, said. “After Nov. 15, you’ve ceased being a hero.”
Jursevics’ husband DJ Jursevics released a statement following the sentencing:
"I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to all of the people, organizations, and agencies involved in navigating this process to as favorable of a resolution as possible under the current Colorado State laws. No sentence handed down in this case will ever be harsh enough or bring Jaimie back. However, I have the utmost confidence that the very best resources from law enforcement and prosecution were utilized and I appreciate all of their efforts and support.
A very special thank you goes out to Colorado State Patrol, the District Attorney’s Office, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Castle Rock Police Department, Palmer Lake Police Department, Castle Rock Fire Department as well as Larkspur Fire Department. The support we have received from Jaimie’s fellow Troopers, and especially Major Matt Packard and Victims Advocate Betzy Zinn-Bicknase has been incredible. I know that Jaimie would have been very proud of how the people she had so much respect for and loved working with have handled this tragic situation with utmost compassion and integrity.Thank you for all the support of the people of Colorado, to both us as a family and the law enforcement community."
Court records indicate another driver on Interstate 25 spotted Henderson driving drunk and reported it. Jursevics received information he was coming down the highway towards her. At the time, Jursevics was helping another trooper with a crash. Court records indicate Jursevics was on the highway “shinning a flashlight toward the ground in the number one lane of traffic. It appeared that Trooper Jursevics was attempting to direct the REDDI (Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately) vehicle to the side of the highway,” report says.
Henderson left the scene and was arrested later.
His attorney said Henderson pleaded guilty to spare his family and Trooper Jamie Jursevics' family a trial.
Jursevics daughter was 9-month-old at the time of her mother’s death. The little girl is now 16-months-old.
“My life and my family’s life changed forever,” said Jolene Torres, Jursevics’ mother. “I’ve cried until I can’t cry anymore. A piece of my heart is missing. I’m living the parents’ worst nightmare.”
Jursevics’ family asked the judge for the maximum sentence allowed by statute.
“Please make an example and maybe this will prevent this tragedy from happening to another family,” Jursevics' younger sister Alysa said.
During any sentencing, victims’ family and friends are asked to direct their victim impact statement comments to the judge. Typically, the suspects look down and don’t make eye contact with anyone talking about their crime. Henderson looked at every person talking about his actions, even when the people asked the judge to put him away for a long time.
Henderson is a decorated veteran, most recently being awarded the Legion of Merit for his work as chief of the G-33 Operations Division, a group that provides oversight to active military operations.
According to The U.S. Army website, Henderson served in that capacity from 2003 until his retirement in July 2013.
Henderson's numerous friends and supporters called him "kind and compassionate" when addressing the judge. Henderson cried during some of the testimony from his friends and co-workers. Most of his supporters were his fellow Army officers.
"He's a man of character and principle," Brigadier General Gregory Bower said. "If I had to characterize Eric, I would call him American freedom fighter. He will carry this guilt to his grave. Eric Henderson is holding himself accountable."
"The first thing he told me after this accident [was]: 'I'm so ashamed. I'm so sorry.'" Colonel Jacki Patton said. "Eric is an honorable man. He loves his family and community dearly."