An Anchorage teen who pleaded guilty to hitting and killing a man on a bicycle will be sentenced to three years in prison with two suspended. Judge Michael Wolverton accepted the plea deal agreed to earlier this year.
Alexandra Ellis was 17 when she struck 51-year-old Jeff Dusenbury with her pickup on an Anchorage neighborhood street. Despite arguments by the defense that she be treated as a juvenile, she will serve time as an adult.
The sentencing hearing began on Friday and primarily focused on the scene of the accident and how fast the vehicle and bicycle were traveling. Wednesday’s testimony focused on Ellis’ ability to overcome her alcohol and substance abuse problems. Her substance abuse counselor said Ellis seemed fully committed to her treatment.
Before the accident she had spent nine months in a residential treatment facility as well. But as Ellis sobbed in the background, her father, Maurice Ellis, said she had changed since that day last July.
“I would say undoubtedly, without a question in my mind, Jeff Dusenbury has saved my daughter,” he paused. “That’s the only way that I’m able to rationalize this whole thing—that he saved my daughter. That my daughter has a chance at a healthy, happy life because of him.”
Before the final sentencing, Ellis herself addressed the court and apologized to Dusenbury’s family.
“And I would like to end with saying I will spend the rest of my life trying to be the best version of the self that I can,” she said before breaking into sobs. “I’m very sorry for how I’ve hurt you and that I’ve taken away your dad. I’m so sorry. It will never be enough just to say it.”
In making his final decision, Judge Wolverton said the situation was sad for everyone involved, but he had no legal basis for rejecting the plea deal. He assured the public that the probation system works, and if a person breaks the conditions of probation they will face consequences. He then addressed Ellis directly.
“If you don’t make those lifelong, permanent changes, none of this will have made any sense whatsoever. None of it,” he said. “I think you can do that. I’m convinced based upon what’s been presented to me that you can do that.”
Both sides declined to comment on the outcome. Ellis will start serving her one-year jail term on October 24.