A jury found a man guilty Thursday of two misdemeanors in a case stemming from a 2017 Natrona County car crash that killed two tourists visiting Wyoming.
Alexander Richardson, of Lusk, was acquitted of the three felonies he faced in the case. After jurors found Richardson not guilty of two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, they unanimously decided to convict him of homicide by vehicle in the deaths of Soon Young Lee, of South Korea, and her 3-year-old son, Jaehyeok Seo.
Jury deliberations lasted a little more than two hours.
Homicide by vehicle carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. If Richardson had been convicted on all counts, he would have faced up to 50 years in prison.
He was driving home from his job on a Utah oil rig when his Ford F-250 drove into oncoming traffic and collided with a Ford Explorer driven by Lee. Her husband, Bong Jun Seo, who is also the boy’s father, was injured in the crash but survived.
Defense attorney Don Fuller admitted throughout the trial that Richardson caused the crash. But Fuller argued his client did not act recklessly, which jurors would have had to find in order to convict Richardson on any of the three felonies: two of aggravated vehicular homicide and one of aggravated assault.
Reached by phone after the verdict, Fuller said he appreciated the jury’s work in a difficult trial.
“We are satisfied with the verdict,” he said. “We think the jury correctly analyzed the case.”
The trial began Monday and featured more than a dozen witnesses, including crash reconstructionists brought by both defense and prosecuting attorneys.
Thursday afternoon, Assistant District Attorney Ava Bell told jurors in her 59-minute closing argument that attorneys were in agreement on many of the elements of the charged crimes. Although she said the Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper who handled the state’s crash reconstruction was more credentialed than the defense’s, she went on to say the point was academic.
“The opinions were the same,” Bell said. “The defendant was at fault for this crash.”
She said the wreck was entirely the result of Richardson deciding to drive tired after an approximately 13-hour shift.
“Use your common sense,” the prosecutor told jurors. “Who wouldn’t be tired at that point?”
Fuller then took the lectern, implying that first responders’ testimony was unreliable. He questioned why some statements — including one in which Richardson is alleged to have said he typically naps before taking a long drive after work but did not do so on the day in question — were not recorded.
If Richardson left directly from work and did not stop, he would have arrived home in Lusk by the time the crash took place more than 100 miles west, Fuller said, referencing a map of one route Richardson may have taken.
“We’re missing a lot of time here,” Fuller said.
The defense attorney said prosecutors had failed to show his client acted recklessly and overcharged him. He said a more appropriate charge would have been careless driving.
“Are we responsible? Sure,” the defense attorney said, barely pausing before answering his own question. “But not of aggravated homicide. Not of aggravated assault.”
Bell returned to the podium for 15 minutes, during which she said law enforcement officers’ testimony was reliable. The statements were not recorded because Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers typically do not do so, she said.
The prosecutor then asked jurors to find Richardson guilty and Judge Kerri Johnson handed the case over to jurors shortly before 4:30 p.m.
Richardson remains free on bond pending sentencing.