A motorist who killed an off-duty Wichita police officer and the officer’s young son in 2018 won’t go to prison after the judge at his Tuesday sentencing hearing agreed to follow a plea agreement recommending probation that the victims’ family gave their blessing to.
“It all comes down to you,” Sedgwick County District Judge Jeff Syrios told James Dalrymple after announcing that he’d spend three years on probation in connection with the April 27, 2018, drunken driving crash that killed 37-year-old Stacey Woodson, a beloved motorcycle cop, and his 10-year-old son, Braeden.
The judge told Dalrymple that the probation carries an underlying prison term of 112 months. But unless he fails to follow a series of conditions ordered by the court, Dalrymple won’t serve it or any jail time.
Those conditions include paying Woodson’s widow, Ashley, $3,375 in restitution, completing 200 hours of community service and attending addiction meetings and a DUI victim’s panel.
Tuesday’s sentencing hearing was a tearful event for the Woodson family and others sitting in the courtroom gallery.
Madison Woodson’s voice shook when she told the judge she was just 14 years old when her father and younger brother died.
Her life “changed forever” when her mother told her at the hospital that her dad was gone, she said.
“He was a hero to this community, and you took him from us.”
Her brother, a Maize South Elementary School student, died two days later at the hospital. He was riding with his father on a motorcycle when the crash happened.
“I don’t get why you would choose to take away two innocent lives,” she said.
Dalrymple himself choked up slightly when he read aloud from a prepared apology he brought to court.
“Mrs. Woodson, there are no words that can express how sorry I am. . . . There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t relive” the crash, adding that he has a son with the same name as her deceased boy.
“Words can’t describe the heartache I would feel if I were to ever lose him,” he said.
Dalrymple pleaded guilty in September to two counts of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol. Although Dalrymple showed few to no signs of intoxication at the time of the fatal crash, an expert determined his blood-alcohol level would have been more than the legal limit to drive in Kansas of 0.08 when he pulled his truck in front of Woodson’s motorcycle at 167th and 21st Street North near Goddard. The crash happened shortly after 8 p.m., after Dalrymple had stopped at a stop sign.
Woodson, of Valley Center, initially denied drinking prior to the crash but later conceded that he had consumed alcohol earlier in the day at his son’s basketball game. The method used to determine whether Dalrymple was intoxicated at the time of the crash became a point of contention leading up to September’s guilty plea — and might have led to an acquittal had the case been tried before a jury.
But Dalrymple’s lawyer on Tuesday said knowing that possibility, his client chose to plead guilty anyway, in part to save the Woodson family from additional heartache of going through a trial.
“This is one of those sad cases where you have two families that have just been devastated,” defense attorney Kurt Kerns said in court, adding that he and prosecutors had been “working really hard to find justice.”
“This is the best that we could come up with,” he said.
Sedgwick County Assistant District Attorney Aaron Breitenbach told the court he didn’t know what “the right sentence is” in this case but that justice was top of mind.
“At the end of the day what we got here is accountability, a public record of fault and an opportunity for some acceptance and responsibility.”