Trial for man accused of killing pregnant Chehalis mother and son, injuring girl, in DUI crash last year set to begin in May

Family of victims angered by plea deal that would result in less than 10 years in prison for suspect


The trial for the man accused of killing a pregnant Chehalis woman and her 2-year-old son in a DUI crash last year is now scheduled to begin in May.

Samantha Denney, of Chehalis, was traveling south in the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 in a 2018 Chevrolet Malibu en route to the Olympia Airport when, at about 10:47 p.m. on Nov. 10, 2023, her vehicle collided with a Jeep Wrangler driven by Draedon J. Jorgenson, 27, of Shelton.

The jeep was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes, according to previous Chronicle reporting.

Denney and the 2-year-old boy, Adonis, who was a passenger in her vehicle, both died. Denney’s 8-year-old daughter, Scarlett, who was also a passenger in the vehicle, was severely injured but survived.

Jorgenson, who has been in custody at the Thurston County Jail on $250,000 bail since Nov. 11, was not injured in the crash. He has since been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide, one count of vehicular assault and one count of DUI.

The trial was most recently scheduled to begin March 25, but Jorgenson and his attorney requested a continuance on Thursday, March 14, to go over recently received evidence.

The trial is now scheduled to begin May 4.

Denney’s family expressed outrage late last month over a plea deal the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office extended to Jorgenson that, if accepted, would set his jail sentence at under 10 years.

The plea offer, detailed by a victim’s advocate in an email Denney’s family shared to local news outlets, would see Jorgenson convicted on all counts with a sentence at the low end of the standard sentencing range, which is set at 111 to 147 months for the vehicular homicide charges and 15 to 20 months for the vehicular assault. The sentences would run concurrently, meaning the actual imposed time would be 111 to 147 months.

Washington state law sets up a grid system for determining standard sentencing ranges based on prior offenses and the severity of the charges.

In Jorgenson’s case, while he does have a gross misdemeanor DUI conviction on his record from 2015 and other minor driving and alcohol-related offenses, those cases are either old enough or minor enough to not count for the purposes of sentencing a new conviction.

State law prohibits judges from sentencing defendants above their standard sentencing ranges except in extreme circumstances.

“I still intend to offer (the) low end,” the victim’s advocate stated in the email sent to Denney’s family. “I understand that this is different, and it crosses the threshold to a sentence of under 10 years. But to get the conviction on all three counts and all the collateral consequences, I think this is a fair offer. It is of course different from what I would be asking for if it goes to trial and I am successful.”

Jorgenson had not accepted the plea deal as of Thursday, March 14.

“When you consider how young my sister was and how much time she had left to live, and how young Adonis was and how much time, life, and experiences he didn't get to have, that is absolutely not enough time, especially when the person who committed these crimes has previous DUIs, has already been through the court system before and that obviously didn’t work,” Emilly Keller, Denney’s sister, said in an interview with KOMO News.

Scarlett continues to recover from her extensive injuries in the crash, but she still has mobility issues and has to go through another surgery later this year, according to KOMO News.

“Her physical injuries will heal, but her emotional injuries will not,” Keller told KOMO News. “She is an 8-year-old little girl who doesn’t have a mom. She gets robbed of all of those experiences as a child.”

Denney’s family plans to push for stricter sentencing guidelines for other victim families, KOMO News reported.