Driver charged following crash that killed 2 motorcycle riders has prior DUIs

2016 file photo for illustrative purposes only of an Intermountain Life Flight helicopter in Washington County, Utah, August 20, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Charges have been filed against the driver involved in the crash on Old Highway 91 that left two dead when the suspect’s vehicle crossed over into oncoming traffic and struck a motorcycle earlier this month.

2020 file photo for illustrative purposes only of crash scene on Old Highway 91 near the Utah-Arizona border, Washington County, Utah, May 4, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Mary Lu Horkay, St. George News

John Brett Sartor, 47, was scheduled to appear in court on Monday and is being held without bail. Court records also indicate this is the eighth case involving DUI charges for the suspect filed within the last 10 years.

The latest arrest stems from an incident reported on April 3, when several bystanders called emergency dispatch reporting a crash involving a maroon Honda Accord that struck a motorcycle on Old Highway 91 near Gunlock in Washington County shortly after 4 p.m. 

On Monday, the suspect was formally charged with two second-degree felony counts of automobile homicide criminal negligence DUI, as well as two third-degree counts of felony DUI in connection with the crash on Old Highway 91. He also faces several misdemeanors, including driving on a revoked license, a charge for being an alcohol-restricted driver and for failing to have an interlock device installed on his vehicle.

According to charging documents, initial reports indicated the bike was struck head-on, and when emergency personnel arrived minutes later, they found two individuals, the driver and a female rider, lying on the shoulder of the roadway. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. 

Officers also found the Accord partially blocking both southbound lanes of the highway and the Utah Highway Patrol was called in to conduct a fatal crash investigation.  

Reconstruction of the crash revealed that the Accord was heading north when the driver drifted over a double yellow line into oncoming traffic and struck the southbound motorcycle carrying two riders. Both were thrown from the bike upon impact, which the report states resulted in the fatal injuries.

Sartor, the driver of the Accord, was seriously injured and flown to  St. George Regional Hospital for treatment. His state-issued identification card was located by emergency medical personnel at the scene as they were preparing the suspect for transport. Responders also told investigators they detected the odor of alcohol coming from the suspect while still at the scene.

During a background check, investigators also learned that Sartor was an alcohol-restricted driver whose license had been revoked for alcohol-related offenses. The suspect was also supposed to have an interlock device installed on the Mustang as required by the court.  

“There was no interlock device observed in the vehicle,” the UHP investigator noted.  

Based on the totality of the scene, the failure of Sartor to negotiate a long curve, the presence of alcohol detected by medical staff and Sartor’s license status and history of driving under the influence, investigators were led to suspect the suspect was impaired at the time of the crash. The report also states that Sartor had several prior cases involving DUI. 

One day after the incident the affidavit was submitted to 5th District Court and a blood draw warrant was approved by Judge Douglas Whitlock and later that same evening, the warrant was served upon Sartor who was still in the hospital when the draw was performed. 

Six days later the suspect was released from the hospital and arrested shortly thereafter by agents with Adult Probation and Parole and was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility, where investigators attempted to interview Sartor. The suspect requested the right to have counsel present and all questioning ceased and he was booked on a warrant issued by the Board of Pardons and placed on a hold. 

The Board of Pardons hold was filed in connection with three felony DUI cases that resulted in the defendant serving time in prison.

A case was filed in July 2020, following an arrest by deputies in Salt Lake County on third-degree felony DUI – a charge Sartor pleaded guilty to in February of the following year and he was sentenced to serve 0-5 years in Utah State Prison.

1649737253 706 Driver charged following crash that killed 2 motorcycle riders has
Stock image of Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 21, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

According to charging documents filed in the courts, at the time of the July 2020 arrest, the suspect had seven prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years, the investigator noted. 

One such DUI conviction was connected to a 2018 case that was filed following an incident reported in November when officers were dispatched to a suspicious person report. 

In that case, a resident in West Jordan called 911 reporting that an unknown individual was knocking on their chimney located on the side of the house. The homeowner also told officers that earlier, that same man was at their door and told the resident they were there to meet a friend at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. 

Officers found the suspect, later identified as Sartor, sitting in a vehicle partially parked on the lawn next door, and according to officers, the driver “did not know where he was and appeared out of it.” When asked, the officer noted, the suspect said he was just sitting in front of his own house.  

A records check revealed that Sartor was an alcohol-restricted driver required to have an interlock device on his vehicle, which had not been installed. He was arrested and booked into jail in West Jordan facing felony DUI, as the defendant had multiple priors, according to police, as well as other misdemeanor alcohol-related charges. He pleaded guilty to the felony DUI several months later and was sentenced to serve 0-5 years in Utah State Prison. While the date of parole was not listed on the Utah State Prison site, he was released in time for the felony DUI in July 2020.  

In 2016, the suspect was arrested for felony DUI with serious injury following a head-on crash reported on Feb. 8 in West Valley. The suspect reportedly attempted to flee the scene but was restrained by a bystander until police arrived. Despite an interlock requirement, no such device was installed on the car the suspect was driving. 

The officer also noted the suspect’s blood-alcohol level was .30 at the time of the crash, which was nearly four times the legal limit, and also wrote it was the fourth DUI arrest conviction for the suspect within a five year period.  

The suspect pleaded guilty to the DUI charge and was sentenced to serve one year in jail and placed on three years’ probation. He then violated the terms of his probation with the 2019 felony DUI arrest and violated both cases with the 2020 felony DUI arrest.

Sartor was also on parole for the felony DUI convictions at the time of the head-on crash on Old Highway 91 last week.  

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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Driver charged following crash that killed 2 motorcycle riders has prior DUIs

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