After causing a deadly, chain-reaction collision Sept. 27, 2018, Tollie Matthews of Litchfield Park was arrested and indicted.
He entered a not guilty plea and maintained his innocence throughout the hearing.
Months after he was ruled guilty by a Maricopa County Superior Court jury, Matthews was sentenced to 15 years in prison for manslaughter.
The jury found Matthews, 55, caused the death of Amanda Moreno, a 17-year-old Agua Fria High school senior. The jury agreed with the prosecution’s case that Matthews was under the influence of oxycodone Sept. 27, 2018, when he caused the chain-reaction crash at Dysart and Osborn roads in Avondale.
The jury’s Feb. 10 decision also found Matthews guilty of two counts of aggravated assault for causing serious injuries of two others, two counts of endangerment and impaired driving.
The victim’s mother and grandparents spoke at the sentencing hearing.
Yolanda Matthews spoke on behalf of her husband at the sentencing, stressing he has health issues.
As of press time, the court had not released a decision on an appeal Matthews filed.
According to court documents, Matthews was driving a Dodge Challenger south when he veered into the next lane and struck a Nissan Altima in which Moreno was a passenger. After being struck by Matthews’ vehicle, the Nissan crossed over the median and hit an ongoing truck.
The truck flipped and landed on the hood of another car.
The prosecution called numerous witnesses, including Avondale police officers Jose Loera, Edward Corona and Justin Iwen.
Iwen, named the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) 2017 Officer of the Year, interviewed Tollie at the scene of the crash.
According to Iwen’s probable cause report, Corona advised him Matthews at first denied being part of the wreck.
“Through my contact with Tollie, I observed his eyes were watery and pupils were constricted,” Iwen wrote in his report. “Tollie’s speech was slow and at times delayed. Tollie appeared to walk or move gingerly and favoring his lower back in his movements.”
Matthews told police he was driving his wife’s Dodge Challenger to put air in the tires. He said he was driving back to his home, less than 3 miles from the accident scene.
Iwen wrote that Tollie told him he takes pain medication related to back surgeries. The officer stated that during a field sobriety test within an hour of the collisions, Matthews “missed his finger to his nose on three attempts, his first, third and sixth attempt.”
Prior to the sixth attempt, Matthews “appeared to be startled and stumbled backwards.”