Oregon Department of Justice

Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum

Oregon Department of Justice - Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum
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July 24, 2009

John Cole Carlgren, whose blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit, had four previous DUII convictions

Umatilla County District Attorney Dean Gushwa and Attorney General John Kroger announced today that a repeat drunk driver who killed four people in a crash near Pendleton last year received a 43-year prison sentence.

"Carlgren's sentence is a just one," said Umatilla County District Attorney Gushwa. "The families of his victims are still shattered by their loss, but they may take some solace in the fact that this 43-year sentence means that Carlgren will never leave prison to drive on our highways and threaten the lives of others again."

"Drunk driving threatens lives and it will not be tolerated"" added Attorney General Kroger. "This conviction sends a loud and clear message: if you drive drunk, we will hold you accountable."

The crash occurred as John Cole Carlgren, 47, was driving home to Carlton from a working stint in Utah on Oct. 19, 2008. Carlgren, who had been convicted of Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants four times since 1984, was drinking beer out of a cooler as he drove.

On Interstate 84 just outside of Pendleton, Carlgren's 1999 Dodge Dakota left the freeway and slammed into the back of a 1991 Chevrolet Beretta, which was on the shoulder either stopped or moving at an extremely slow speed. The driver and three passengers, who were heading home from a church dance in La Grande, died immediately.

The victims were identified as Hermiston residents Jessie Cline, 29, Michelle Sawyer, 29, William Johnson, 24, and Boardman resident Fred Young, Jr., 31.

All four victims were wearing seatbelts. Sawyer and Young were engaged to be married in December. Sawyer's death left her 6-year-old daughter, Annie, without a mother.

Carlgren refused a blood test after being taken to the hospital. A test conducted three hours later registered a blood-alcohol count of .219 - nearly three times the legal limit of .08.

In addition to his DUIIs, Carlgren had been convicted of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. His probation was revoked in each of his drunk-driving convictions for failing to comply with the conditions of his probation.

The case was investigated by the Oregon State Police with assistance from the Umatilla Tribal Police Department, the Umatilla County Sheriff's Office, OSP's Forensic Laboratory, the Oregon Department of Justice and the Umatilla County District Attorney's Office.

Umatilla County Chief Deputy Dan Wendel prosecuted the case with Senior Assistant Attorney General Deena Ryerson. Ryerson's expert assistance was provided through the Department of Justice's District Attorney Assistance Program and the Oregon Department of Transportation. The District Attorney Assistance Program provides experienced, expert and technical criminal advice to district attorneys around the state. The District Attorney's Assistance Program specializes in homicide, gang, and sex predator cases and it houses the state's premier sex predator enforcement unit, the Internet Crimes Against Children Program.

Attorney General John Kroger leads the Oregon Department of Justice. The Department's mission is to fight crime and fraud, protect the environment, improve child welfare, and defend the rights of all Oregonians.


Tony Green, (503) 378-6002 tony.green@doj.state.or.us |
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