BOULDER, Colo. (KMGH) — In a rare move, the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office is going after parents and business owners in a case involving a teenager suspected of driving drunk and causing a crash that killed two people earlier this year.
On Wednesday, the DA’s office handed down nine indictments against five Boulder parents, a party bus driver, a Boulder liquor store and two fake ID websites in connection with the April 9 three-vehicle crash near Foothills Parkway and Valmont Road that killed Lyft driver Ori Tsioni, 33, and his passenger, Gregoria Morales Ramirez, 49.
A grand jury is accusing the five parents — Elise Miller, Charlene and Todd Hoffman, and Pam and Mark Sunderland — of allowing and facilitating the consumption of alcohol by teens during the prom night incident and on previous occasions.
The indictment also alleges the companies that operate IDGod.com and OldIronSidesFakes.com sold fake identification cards to underage people, including the teenage girl charged in the crash.
Additionally, the grand jury investigation resulted in charges against a party bus driver, Mike Johnson, who is accused of allowing students to drink on the bus. And a Boulder liquor store, Willow Springs Wines & Spirits, allegedly sold liquor to students without verifying IDs.
According to an affidavit, event staff witnessed students on the party bus were visibly intoxicated when the bus arrived at the prom site, Church Ranch Event Center, noting that two students were so drunk they fell to the pavement after exiting the bus.
The 17-year-old girl, who has not been named, accused of the crash was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, driving under the influence, driving with excessive alcohol content, driving on the wrong side of a divided highway, and minor in possession of alcohol.
The crash occurred the night of Boulder High School’s prom. According to the DA’s office, the girl left a post-prom party to get more alcohol. She then drove her truck on the wrong side of Highway 157 and allegedly crashed head-on with a 2018 Subaru Legacy, killing the vehicle’s driver and passenger.
Prosecutors said following the fatal crash, many of the witnesses refused to cooperate with the investigation. But those same witnesses were compelled to testify during the grand jury investigation.
In a statement, the Boulder Valley School District said it supports the DA Office’s investigation and is “dedicated to continuing to review and improve our policies and practices.”
“Today, we learned of charges being brought by the Boulder County District Attorneys’ Office against businesses and individuals in our community associated with the use of alcohol and impaired driving that resulted in an April 2022 double fatal crash.
This was an incredibly tragic situation that took the lives of two innocent people. It also has, sadly, changed the trajectory of the lives of the young people involved, including the former BVSD student who was charged earlier for vehicular homicide and driving under the influence.
It is also a situation that brings into stark relief a serious issue in our community – underage drinking and drug use.
For many years, our high school principals and staff have been talking about the dangers of alcohol, drug use and, specifically, party buses to parents and students alike.
We remind parents that the brains of high school-aged children are not fully developed, and work to educate our youth that the introduction of alcohol and drugs often leads to bad outcomes.
Boulder Valley School District has taken steps, within its authority, to address this community issue. Typically at our high schools, the protocol is to pull aside students who smell like alcohol or appear to be impaired, contact parents, and establish a safe and appropriate way for the student to get home. Students who are found to have engaged in serious misconduct are subject to school disciplinary action, including possible suspension. Often law enforcement is present at dances and large events and assist in managing students who appear to have been using alcohol or drugs.
We are dedicated to continuing to review and improve our policies and practices in this area. We are also aware that more forceful measures may have unintended consequences. For instance, we are aware that the measures we have already taken (including those mentioned above) have resulted in some students choosing not to attend the school event, something that is worrisome to us. In fact, we have heard of cases in which students have stayed at house parties and/or ridden around on party buses for the full evening.
We fully support District Attorney Michael Dougherty and the DA Office’s efforts to get to the bottom of this situation. It’s time for us to come together as a community in light of these findings to do better, to unite to keep our students safe and better understand the dangers of drug and alcohol use by our youth.”
This story was originally published Sept. 7, 2022 by KMGH in Denver, an E.W. Scripps Company.