Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

November 23, 2012

Man sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing motorist

Staff Writer

DANVILLE — Justin Land, 24, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in a July 2, 2011, vehicle crash that left Jill Guthrie, 54, of Danville deceased.

Land was found guilty of one count of causing death when operating a motor vehicle with a scheduled one or two controlled substance in the blood, a class B felony. After submitting to a blood sample, it was discovered that Land had benzoylecgonine in his blood, which is the primary metabolite of cocaine.

The jury also found that he had committed two driving infractions, driving without insurance and running a red light. The jury imposed a $10,000 fine for driving without insurance, the maximum allowed by law.

Evidence presented at the trial showed that Land was driving west bound on Old U.S. 36 in a red 1992 Chevy Blazer with his 4-year-old child when he entered the intersection of Old Farm Road and Main Street on a red light and collided with Guthrie’s vehicle near the driver’s side door.

Guthrie was a mother of five, and died at the scene from massive internal injuries sustained from the collision. Law enforcement collected a sample of Land’s blood for analysis and it was later determined that he had used cocaine prior to the crash.

In an affidavit, Land told police that he had become distracted by either his phone or his daughter in the vehicle at the time he ran the red light and that he briefly took his eyes off the road. He stated that he was not texting at the time of the crash, and slammed on his brakes to avoid Guthrie’s Mitsubishi, but was unable to avoid the collision, sliding into her vehicle.

Eyewitnesses who observed the crash said Guthrie had the green light and that the lights at the intersection were working properly at the time of the crash, which was just before 2:30 p.m.

Deputy Prosecutor Loren Delp presented the state’s case at a trial and sentencing and said, “This was a senseless act that caused so much pain to the Guthrie family and many people of this community who knew Jill. It is our hope that some good will come from this senseless act and people will learn that you cannot do drugs and drive, period.”

At sentencing, Hendricks County Superior Court 5 Judge Stephanie Lemay-Luken found as aggravating circumstances that Land had his child in the car at the time, did not have insurance, and used illegal drugs while the case was pending.

She sentenced him to the 10 years in prison followed by five years of probation. She further suspended Land’s driver’s license for four years.

Hendricks County Prosecutor Patricia Baldwin stated, “We are pleased with the sentence. We know it does not lessen the terrible loss suffered by the family, but hope it brings some sense of justice to this tragedy.