GUTHRIE, Okla. – Rocky Baca stood before a courtroom packed with family, friends and colleagues of his victims and plead guilty to two counts of first degree manslaughter.
Baca was driving along Highway 33 near Perkins on October 27th, 2014 when he crossed the center line and crashed head on into the vehicle carrying Jennifer Briggs and Heather Wilson.
The two women were carpooling to work.
They were English teachers at Guthrie Junior High.
Both were pronounced dead at the scene.
Lab tests confirmed Baca was under the influence of synthetic marijuana at the time.
“Two families got hurt, devastated by this. And, two communities got hurt by this. A school, Guthrie Junior High, got hurt by this,” said Brigg’s uncle, Van Mitchell.
“Two young ladies who were bright, rising stars aren’t here anymore. And, we’re hurting for teachers,” said Brigg’s other uncle, Mark Mitchell.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about that day and those two young ladies,” said Guthrie superintendent Dr. Mike Simpson.
At the victims’ families’ request, Baca was ordered to pay restitution not only to them but to Guthrie Junior High, as well.
Simpson said that money will go towards improvements at the Guthrie Junior High library.
“It’s very humbling from the family to think the family was thinking of Guthrie Junior High School. That tells how much they cared about teaching, how much they cared about kids,” Simpson said.
Baca was sentenced to 20 years, 12 in prison and 8 suspended, depending on his good behavior.
Family members said they don’t know if 20 years constitutes “justice,” but they do hope this case sends a strong message.
“I can tell you from all of our family that, if you’re impaired, don’t drive. There’s other places that you can go for help,” Mark said.
As part of Baca’s statement under oath, he provided information detailing where he purchased the synthetic marijuana, how often he purchased it from that retailer and how often he smoked it.
“This kind of detailed and specific statement from the defendant is uncommon and was negotiated as part of the plea bargain in order to assist one of the victim’s families in a civil lawsuit against the provider of the synthetic marijuana. Had the defendant not agreed to make this sworn statement, the chances of their future lawsuit being successful would be greatly diminished,” said Payne County District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas.