A 32-year-old Kalispell man was sentenced to prison a year after he drove a truck while intoxicated into an Evergreen home, killing a 15-year-old girl sleeping in her bed.
Jared Allen Parsons was sentenced to 17 years in Montana State Prison with 10 years suspended during an emotional hearing in Flathead County District Court on May 13. Parsons previously pleaded guilty to a single count of felony vehicular homicide in January, an offense that can carry a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.
According to charging documents, law enforcement responded to a report of a vehicle that crashed into a house on Spring Creek Drive at around 2 a.m. on April 26, 2019. Upon arriving, officers learned that a Dodge Ram pickup truck crashed through a sign, ran over some bushes and struck a house, killing 15-year-old Erin Howk, a student at Columbia Falls High School. The teen had been sleeping and was dead when authorities arrived.
A state trooper located two men near the scene of the crash and identified one as Howk’s father, who was on top of the other man, and the other as Parsons.
Officers detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from Parsons and observed that he had a difficult time maintaining his balance and stumbled when he walked, court records state.
According to records, the pickup crashed through the exterior of the house “to approximately the driver’s door” and was registered to Parsons.
Parsons initially pleaded not guilty to a single charge of felony vehicular homicide. He later agreed to a plea agreement.
During the sentencing hearing, the court heard from friends of Erin Howk and the 15-year-old’s mother, Brittany Howk. Howk said that she had Erin when she was 16 years old.
“I spent half my life with her and to go from seeing her every day to never seeing her again … I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” the mother said though tears. “She was always smiling. Always giving hugs.”
The mother said that some of the clothing items she has from her daughter still smell like gasoline from the truck that crashed through a wall. However, while Brittany Howk said losing her daughter has been one of the most devastating events in her life, she did not want to see Parsons’ life destroyed by having him sit in prison for decades. She urged the court to make sure Parsons could get the help he needed. A therapist who testified on Parsons’ behalf said the man had a troubled upbringing and struggled with substance abuse but that he has expressed significant remorse for his actions.
County Attorney Travis Ahner said the court needed to send a message to the community that what Parson’s did was serious. The best way to do that was by imposing a prison sentence, Ahner said.
Parsons’ defense attorney, Liam Gallagher, argued the judge should give the man a suspended sentence or a Department of Corrections commitment with most of the time suspended. In either case, Parson’s would be able to receive treatment in the community.
The judge sided with the state, handing down a prison sentence with credit for a year already served. Parsons will also have to pay more than $15,000 in restitution. It is expected that Parsons will be eligible for treatment programs within the prison system.
Prior to being sentenced, Parsons spoke to the court and apologized for his actions.
“I accept responsibility,” Parsons said. “Saying sorry will never be enough, but sorry is all I have.”