During a series of events rarely seen inside a Colorado courtroom, Gregory Nessler was allowed Tuesday during his sentencing hearing to turn and face the family of the Maine man he killed last year while driving high on drugs.

Before he was sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular homicide and four years for vehicular assault, Nessler fought back tears and vowed to Christopher Douglass’ family to live his life the way their son and brother no longer could.

“I take full responsibility for my actions,” Nessler said facing the 15 friends and family members in the courtroom after being granted permission to do so by Judge David Williams.

“I can truly say he’s an inspiration for the way I wish I could live my life. I’m truly, deeply sorry.”

Nessler, a 21-year-old Colorado State University student, was sentenced Tuesday afternoon in Fort Collins after pleading guilty in March to the vehicular homicide and assault charges filed against him after a fatal crash on May 31, 2008, on U.S. Highway 287 north of Fort Collins.

He’ll serve the two sentences concurrently and serve three years of mandatory parole upon his release. His attorneys can file a motion to reconsider the sentence in the next nine to 12 months.

With the prescription drug Xanax, marijuana and cocaine in his system, prosecutors say Nessler dozed off and his Chevrolet Avalanche collided head-on with the Toyota Camry driven by 24-year-old Amy White of Denver and carrying the 28-year-old Douglass of Lisbon.

The Camry was demolished, and Douglass was pronounced dead at the scene. White survived, but a year and a month after the crash, she has permanent brain damage, is in a child-like state and is blind in one eye, according to a Colorado State Patrol victim’s advocate.

The sentence Williams handed down took into consideration circumstances he and attorneys for both sides said were the most difficult they’ve encountered during their legal careers.

Nessler’s crimes were his first against society, and his parents described him as a caring young man who became addicted to pain killers while battling an illness.

Family members say White and Douglass were on the path toward marriage.

Loved ones also described Douglass as an outdoors enthusiast, musician, artist and best friend to many. Douglass had traveled to 48 states, run a marathon in Dublin, Ireland, and was planning a cross-country walk from Colorado to his home-state of Maine in the months before he died.

“He was my adventurous son, and he was my baby,” Douglass’ mother, Linda Douglass, said. “Chris had so many plans he hadn’t done yet.”

Linda Douglass, along with her husband, Jerry, also read a “bucket list” – things to do before one dies – that their son had created when he was 20 years old. He also read a letter Chris wrote the Father’s Day before his death, where he thanked his dad for teaching him the three principles he need to live by: Be nice, be honest and be thankful.

“The memories that brought us smiles before now come with all these tears,” Chris’ sister and best friend, Bethany Douglass, told Williams.

Nessler cried throughout the two-hour hearing, but most uncontrollably when he addressed the Douglass family for about five minutes. His attorneys asked Williams to sentence him to 10 years in community corrections.

Williams said sentencing Nessler to community corrections would minimize his crime and not carry out the principle of deterrence.

Reprinted with permission of the Fort Collins Coloradoan.


chrisdouglass.org.

Gregory Nessler was sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular homicide and four years for vehicular assault on Tuesday in Colorado. The sentences stem from a fatal crash on May 31, 2008, in Colorado that killed Maine native Chris Douglass.


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