Man pleads guilty, receives sentence, in fatal 2009 Seward Highway wreck

casey.grove@adn.comFebruary 22, 2013 

A Girdwood man pleaded guilty in Superior Court on Friday to causing a 2009 Seward Highway wreck that killed two teenagers.

Benjamin Cosper, 36, asked for forgiveness from the victims' families Friday after pleading guilty to two counts of negligent homicide and a count of third-degree assault. Minutes later, Judge Michael Wolverton sentenced Cosper to two years in custody, recommending the sentence be served under electronic monitoring.

Prosecutors and Alaska State Troopers say the fatal collision happened when Cosper tried to pass a string of vehicles on the Seward Highway while driving from Anchorage to Girdwood on Aug. 6, 2009. Cosper could not squeeze his white Dodge pickup between cars and back into his lane in time and hit a truck pulling a U-Haul trailer heading the opposite direction. Cosper's pickup then slammed into a Suzuki sedan, killing Soldotna residents Alex Baker, 19, and Rodney Rogers, 16. The crash injured Elizabeth Miller, 17, who was pregnant and also riding in the Suzuki. Miller, Baker's fiance, survived and later gave birth to a healthy baby girl, according to a prosecutor and Cosper's lawyer.

Prosecutor Daniel Shorey said Cosper was not impaired by drugs or alcohol in the wreck, had previously never had a criminal conviction or even a speeding ticket, and wanted to take responsibility for making a bad decision.

"He started passing when it was safe to pass. He just didn't make it back in time," Shorey said.

In a letter to Judge Wolverton, Rogers' older sister, Katie Shook, described Rogers growing up and her family's sadness when his life was cut short.

"Instead of being able to watch my brother grow into his next role, an adult, I had to say goodbye to him," Shook wrote. "I am writing this as a reminder, that Rodney wasn't an event that occurred August 6, 2009. He was a child born on January 18, 1993. He was a baby that grew into a toddler, a child and a teenager. He was a son, a brother, an uncle and a friend. He was loved, he is missed."

It was a "tragic" case, Judge Wolverton said.

"There's no sentence that fixes this for anybody," he said.

Cosper's lawyer, Julia Moudy, said her client decided to accept a plea deal to avoid putting the victims' families through further hardship. He is not the type of person to ever return to court charged with another crime, Moudy said.

Cosper, a father, also gave a brief statement in court Friday.

"I'm truly sorry," he said. "I hope they feel they can forgive me and find some peace."

 

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

 

 

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