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Courts and Crime

Vehicular homicide sentencing becomes demonstration of forgiveness

Matthew Pearson Hall. (Courtesy photo)
Davonte James was killed in a head-on collision with Matthew Hall last year

On Tuesday, April 23, Matthew Pearson Hall, 54, was sentenced in the 22nd Judicial District to 12 months of supervised probation and 100 hours of community service in the death of 18-year-old Davonte Silas James on U.S. Highway 160 last year.

The crash later was found to be caused by undiagnosed narcolepsy.

At his sentencing hearing April 23, Hall’s lawyer, Laura Menninger of Haddon, Morgan and Foreman in Denver, spoke of Hall’s narcolepsy diagnosis after the crash, saying that Hall’s narcolepsy includes seizures and loss of consciousness without much recollection of events before and after the episodes occur.

He is now receiving treatment for this diagnosis.

Mary Silas, James’ mother, addressed Judge William Furse and the court, speaking of her son and her forgiveness of Hall, saying that she had the chance to speak with him.

“I truly believe that is was a terrible accident,” Silas said. “It was not preventable. I’m a believer in forgiveness. This really did challenge my beliefs and understanding of my beliefs in general, but I do forgive Mr. Hall. I miss my son a lot, but no amount of time in jail or no kind of punishment can ever bring my son back.”

James was remembered as someone who was devoted to his family and loved music, as well as being a hard worker. He was heading to work at the time of the crash and was about to graduate from high school.

Silas went on to say that she wanted to honor her son and continue moving forward, rather than being trapped in a cycle of anger and bitterness.

“I think my son would definitely be proud of me for not keeping a grudge,” Silas said. “He’s never been a person to hold grudges at all. He’s definitely happy it was just him and not the family or anybody else. … I’d just like to move on.”

Menninger shared that Hall also has an 18-year-old son.

“Mr. Hall wants to acknowledge that he carries the memory of Davonte with him. He speaks to him in his mind on a daily basis,” Menninger said. “There is absolutely nothing we can say or do to bring Davonte back, but we think it’s most appropriate that we honor his legacy today.”

Hall, who is a former paramedic and volunteer firefighter, was injured in an accident while attending a patient in 2002, and has undergone 22 subsequent surgeries in the past 22 years, with three more scheduled for 2024. Menninger also spoke of Hall’s love of volunteering in his community.

Menninger said Hall didn’t want a trial because he wanted to acknowledge that he “had crossed the centerline.”

In his plea, Hall was prepared to plea guilty to a felony rather than a misdemeanor for careless driving resulting in death and opted for 1,000 hours of community service in Montezuma County, rather than in California, to give back to the community in which James lived.

When it was Hall’s turn to address the court, Hall spoke of James through tears, saying that he plays music for James and thinks about him every day.

“I want whatever is right for Mary and her family,” Hall said. “Bless you, Davonte. Godspeed.”

After taking a few minutes to make a decision, Furse thanked Silas for her words to the court, saying that her words of forgiveness were powerful and ones he wasn’t sure he would be able to say in the same situation.

“I believe you to be a wonderful mother and a remarkable human being,” he said.

At first, Furse said he had been concerned about the “appropriateness” of the requested sentencing in the plea bargain, but that after hearing from Silas, Hall and Menninger, he decided that it was an appropriate ask, though a risky one.

“I think that speaks to your abilities and your likelihood of success,” Furse said to Hall. “Your life has demonstrated that you are more than this case and that you are not to be judged by the accident, as I’ll call it.”

Furse accepted Hall’s plea agreement, while saying that he wished to help Silas and Hall and their families move on from the tragedy.

Saying that he believed 1,000 hours of community service “leaves this chapter of both of your lives open for too long” and that he doesn’t see evidence that there was need for a sentence that long, Judge Furse sentenced Hall to 12 months of supervised probation and 100 hours of community service or volunteer time.

“I see someone who is genuinely apologetic, remorseful and proactive,” Furse said.

To finish, Furse said he hopes both parties find closure.

“Thank you for sharing Davonte’s life with me,” Furse said. “I wish you both love and life.”

The accident occurred on U.S. 160 near milepost 57.8 on April 2, 2023. Hall, who is from Portola Valley, California, was driving a 2018 Chevrolet Suburban westbound when his vehicle swerved and struck James, who was driving his 2007 Ford Fusion eastbound.

According to reports, the crash took place at 12:38 p.m. Those who witnessed the crash told law enforcement that James’ vehicle attempted to avoid Hall’s Suburban, but they collided 2 feet from the centerline in the westbound lane. Both vehicles were totaled, and James was pronounced dead on the scene.

First responders shared that James was extricated from his vehicle, and an autopsy report done by Montezuma County Coroner Assistant Carter Smith determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the neck and chest.

James was from Ignacio.

Before the crash, there were at least two Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately calls. Both callers said that Hall was driving erratically and kept swerving into the lane of oncoming traffic.

Call logs show that the REDDI calls came in at 12:17 p.m. and 12:32 p.m. before the crash was reported at 12:40 p.m.

Trooper Steven King, who did an on-location interview with Hall, said Hall immediately acknowledged that he was the one at fault in the crash.

“I was at fault, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Hall reportedly told King.

King noted that Hall had dilated and bloodshot eyes, gave delayed responses and struggled to answer simple questions. He was unable to give a clear answer on where he was going and why. Hall was transported to Southwest Memorial Hospital soon after for chest pains.

At the hospital, Trooper Edward McLaren-Rose spoke with Hall, saying in his incident report that Hall was “twitchy” and couldn’t sit still, giving repetitive answers once again.

Southwest Memorial’s Dr. Michael Cavanaugh’s discharge diagnosis said that Hall’s “chest wall pain” was because of the motor vehicle collision, and noted that Hall had high blood pressure.

Hall was found to have traces of drugs in his system. He also admitted that he had taken a cannabis pill in “compound form,” but the drug traces were later found to be from prescription drugs that Hall took for ADHD, rather than from substance abuse issues.

After leaving the hospital, Hall was booked at the Montezuma County Detention Center on the charges of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs resulting in death, driving under the influence and careless driving. The charges later were changed as the investigation unfolded.