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News / Clark County News

Battle Ground man sentenced to 12 years in drunk driving crash that killed one

Sentencing in vehicular homicide case

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: May 4, 2023, 4:49pm

A Battle Ground man was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in prison for a July 2021 drunken-driving crash that killed a Hockinson man.

Jaxon Jondahl, 21, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to vehicular homicide while operating a vehicle under the influence or in a reckless manner. A charge of driving while suspended was dismissed.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Toby Krauel said Nicholas A.W. Crown, 35, was on his way home from work July 11, 2021, when Jondahl hit his car at a high rate of speed. Crown died the next day at an area hospital. Jondahl was treated at the hospital for minor injuries, according to court records.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office had responded to the crash shortly after 10 p.m. in the 17200 block of Northeast 159th Street.

Jondahl was driving his 2009 Chevrolet HHR east when he crashed into Crown’s 1995 Toyota Camry that had turned from Northeast 172nd Avenue to head east on 159th Street, according to the sheriff’s office. Investigators said they found busted beer cans and a bottle of vodka in the wreckage, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The prosecutor said Jondahl, who was 19 at the time, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.15. In Washington, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 is considered evidence of drunken driving. He also noted Jondahl had two prior DUI convictions.

Crown’s grandmother described hearing the crash from their home, about a half-mile away, which she said sounded like an explosion. She said she and other family members went outside to check on the noise and found a car flipped on its top and blood in the street. The car was so damaged, she didn’t immediately recognize it as her grandson’s Camry, she said, until first responders identified the driver.

Jondahl cried from a video booth at the jail while the woman told Judge John Fairgrieve that her grandson suffered a fractured skull, broken neck and broken ribs, which punctured his lung. She showed Fairgrieve a photo of Crown and another of Crown in the hospital.

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“You had a choice not to drive. Still you drove and killed my grandson,” she said.

Crown’s sister said she has to drive by the crash scene every day. She said there were stains on the concrete for weeks.

Krauel and defense attorney Alyosha McClain both recommended a sentence of 11 years and two months, which was at the low end of the standard sentencing range.

McClain asked the judge to consider Jondahl’s youth at the time of the crash in favor of a low-end sentence. McClain also noted Jondahl was taking responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty to the original charge and avoiding revictimizing Crown’s family by going to trial.

The defense attorney said the fact the crash is Jondahl’s third DUI offense shows that Jondahl needs substance use treatment, and he believes Jondahl will use his prison time to get help.

Jondahl fought back tears as he told Crown’s family that he thinks about him every day, and he wishes he could take back his actions.

“I know saying sorry won’t make it better, but I want you to know that I’m truly (expletive) sorry for what I did,” Jondahl said.

Fairgrieve said the magnitude of the damage from the crime necessitated a mid-range sentence of 144 months.