Truck driver receives 26 years for killing motorcyclists

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- The truck driver who killed four people after crashing into a group of motorcycle riders in 2010 will be spending nearly three decades behind bars.

Michael Jakscht was in a Phoenix courtroom Friday where he was sentenced to 26 years in prison.

Jakscht received 18 years for two of his manslaughter counts, and 10.5 years for each of his other two manslaughter counts. All four counts will run concurrently.

Jakscht also received eight years in prison for each of his five counts of aggravated assault. All five counts will run concurrent to each other, but consecutive to the manslaughter charges.

Jakscht was also sentenced on Friday to 2.25 years in prison for one count of endangerment, and six months for each of his three additional counts of endangerment.

The 49-year-old will receive credit for approximately 2.5 years of time already served.

“While today’s sentence provides a measure of justice for the survivors and families of the victims of this horrible event, nothing can erase the suffering or replace the loss of innocent life caused by this defendant’s criminal actions,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

Jakscht was driving a 23,000-pound dump truck in March 2010 when he failed to stop at a traffic light along the Carefree Highway and ran into several motorcyclists.

“I was expecting more,” Barbara Rich said of the sentencing during a vigil held near the crash scene Friday night.  “I will never get over losing my daughter.”

Her daughter, Dayle Downs Totonchi was among those killed, along with Clyde Nachand, Stephen Punch and Daniel Butler.

Another five were injured, including Phoenix Fire Captain Ernie Lizarraga.

“I’ve got a long way to go, many more hurdles,” Captain Lizarraga told 3TV.

“He never gives up,” said his wife, Lorri Lizarraga. “He keeps working at getting better every day, all the time.”

Methamphetamine was found in Jakscht’s system at the time of the crash. His lawyer, however, argued that Jakscht wasn’t impaired at the time, and that the crash was caused by a mechanical error in the truck.

Jakscht first went on trial in 2011. The trial ended with a hung jury deadlocked at 9 to 3 for acquittal.

The Maricopa County attorney’s office decided to retry the case, and in August Jakscht was found guilty of four counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggravated assault, one count of endangerment imminent death, and three counts of endangerment physical injury.

While, the families and friends of the victims say they’re relieved their days in court are over, moving forward isn’t any easier.

“It never really leaves my mind,” said Lorri Lizarraga.

“There will never be closure,” said Barbara Rich.