Arapahoe County District Court Judge Darren Vahle sentenced an Aurora driver to 18 years in prison for dragging a woman under his trailer before driving off, leaving the woman dead in the street.
Henry Lawrence Wardwell, 49, was on probation in a felony menacing case when he struck and killed Juliet Powell-Brown, who was 47 when she died. A jury convicted Wardwell on May 15, 2019, of five counts, including leaving the scene of an accident involving death, a Class 3 felony.
Wardwell was driving without a valid operator’s license and he did not have insurance for his vehicle.
“You have done a terrible thing, and you have to pay for that. There is nothing more serious than the death of another person,” Vahle told Wardwell during sentencing Thursday. “You have shown you don’t care what the law is, whether or not you are allowed to drive. You have multiple ‘driving under suspension’ convictions, yet you drove a car you had no business driving. You backed up into innocent victims, and you ran away.
“The message that cannot be sent is: Go ahead, disregard the law, you’ll get a light sentence. That cannot be the message.”
District Attorney George Brauchler approved of the sentence.
“What kind of person mortally wounds another member of our community and then leaves them to die an unimaginable death?” Brauchler said. “To do so while on probation for another felony conviction proves that there is only one place for this selfish miscreant: prison. No license + no insurance + no human decency = no freedom. Of course, under our ridiculous sentencing scheme, this repeat felon will be eligible for parole in a fraction of his earned sentence. Colorado deserves better.”
On Aug. 7, 2018, Powell-Brown was with her family at a tire store on South Chambers Road in Aurora. Wardwell backed into their car. He was driving a pickup truck towing a travel trailer.
Wardwell told Powell-Brown and her husband that he would retrieve his registration and insurance papers. Instead, he drove off.
Powell-Brown and her husband followed Wardwell to the intersection of Mexico and Chambers, where they got out of their car and confronted him.
Wardwell did a U-turn to get away. He struck Powell-Brown, who fell under the wheels of the trailer.
Wardwell drove away, dragging Powell-Brown until she was dislodged near East Bails Place. Wardwell kept driving.
Numerous witnesses saw all of the events. One witness made a video recording of the crime. Another witness followed Wardwell when he drove away; she called 911 and directed officers to his vehicle. Aurora Police arrested him near South Sable Boulevard and East Arkansas Drive.
Powell-Brown’s family and pastor attended the sentencing hearing.
“The nightmares keep occurring for all of us. We lost a loving mother, a wife, my best friend and confidant,” her husband told the judge. “These losses can never be recouped. We have been given a life sentence.”
Deputy District Attorney Daniel Warhola asked Judge Vahle for a 20-year sentence. The presumptive sentencing range on the top count was 8-24 years.
“This defendant killed Juliet Powell-Brown. There is no way around that,” said Warhola, who tried the case with Deputy District Attorney Megan Brewer. “He ran from the scene and tried to run from his problems. His disregard for the lives of others is concerning and appalling.”
Vahle sentenced Wardwell to 18 years in the Colorado Department of Correction on the top count, leaving the scene of an accident involving death; 12 years in DOC for vehicular homicide-reckless driving, to be served concurrently; 90 days in jail for failing to report an accident; 90 days in jail for driving under restraint; and 90 days in jail for no having drivers insurance. Wardwell has already been in jail more than a year since the accident.