Tremonton man sentenced in texting traffic deaths

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Logan text deaths sentence March 10, 2009

Logan » Calling texting while driving a crime, a judge Tuesday ordered a Tremonton man to spend 30 days in the Cache County jail as part of his sentence for two counts of negligent homicide.

Reggie Shaw was 19 when his Chevy Tahoe veered into oncoming traffic on State Road 30 near Logan, causing the deaths of Cache Valley residents Jim Furfaro, 38, of Logan and Keith O'Dell, 50, of North Logan.

Though Shaw told Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Bart Rindlisbacher at the scene on Sept. 22, 2006, that he had not been texting, subpoenaed cell phone records show Shaw and a friend exchanged 11 text messages in the moments before the accident, according to Cache County Prosecutor Don Linton.

On Tuesday, a remorseful Shaw read a lengthy letter of apology to the court.

"I am so sorry," he said. "I want to make sure no one else makes the same mistake I made."

Furfaro and O'Dell were husbands, fathers, cyclists, rocket scientists and good friends. Their widows, Jackie Furfaro and Leila O'Dell, as well as O'Dell's daughter, Megan, shared photos and fond memories of their loved ones.

"He was my best friend for 30 years and it is hard to have joy without him," Leila O'Dell said.

"By all accounts, these were great men," said 1st District Court Judge Thomas Willmore, adding that he was disappointed that Shaw "lacked the decency" to express condolences to the victims before the plea agreement was signed. "You can express sympathy without admitting guilt."

Willmore ordered Shaw to complete all of tenets of the plea and abeyance agreement, including participating in a video regarding the dangers of texting while driving, as well as watching a video of one of the deceased individual's lives.

In lieu of up to 60 additional days in jail, Willmore ordered Shaw to spend 150 hours educating "the largest assemblies possible" at all of the junior high and high schools in Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties.

In February, Shaw fulfilled a portion of the plea agreement signed when he testified at the Utah Capitol for Rep. Stephen Clark's proposed ban on texting behind the wheel. The bill passed in the House with a 6-1 committee vote and is expected to pass in the Senate before the end of the legislative session, according to Willmore.

If the law doesn't pass this year, Willmore told Shaw that he is expected to fight for passage of some form of it in the next legislative session.

Shaw will report to the Cache County jail on May 8, when his semester at Salt Lake Community College is completed.