Driver in fatal Renton crash placed under house arrest

Bail for Chase Daniel Jones, accused of four counts of vehicular homicide, was initially set at $1 million

At an early arraignment hearing conducted over Zoom, 18-year-old Chase Daniel Jones of Kent pleaded not guilty after being charged with killing one woman and three children, while seriously injuring two other children in a high-speed collision in Renton on March 19.

According to police documents, Jones’s sedan T-boned 38-year-old Andrea Hudson’s minivan as she carpooled five children at the intersection of Southeast 192nd Street and 140th Avenue Southeast in the Cascade-Fairwood area of unincorporated King County after running through a red light at 112 mph.

The collision caused the deaths of Hudson, 13-year-old Matilda Wilcoxson, and 12-year-olds Eloise Wilcoxson and Boyd “Buster” Brown, as well as life-threatening injuries to Hudson’s children, Nolan, 14, and Charlotte, 12.

Jones was charged with four felony counts of vehicular homicide, two felony counts of vehicular assault with aggravating injury, and a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving following the collision.

At the April 1 arraignment hearing, Jones’ defense attorney Brad Barshis spoke on behalf of his client, who is still recovering in the hospital, for lowering the bail amount, which had initially been posted at $1 million.

Judge Johanna Bender oversaw the arraignment, and after hearing arguments from the prosecution and defense, lowered the bail to $100,000, which was posted the next day on April 2.

Arraignment over Zoom

Barshis argued to the court that despite the seriousness of the case and the “tragic scenario of allegations across the board,” there is a presumption of release in a non-capital offense. This means that the case is not punishable by death as capital punishment has been abolished in Washington state.

Barshis also argued that, due to Jones being charged with felony vehicular homicide and assault, that he is not likely to commit a violent crime upon release due to his own injuries not allowing him to operate a vehicle. Barshis also said that they are willing to surrender Jones’s drivers license “at this time.”

“I understand that these are designated as violent crimes, but my client is not out there stealing cars, having a gun intentionally trying to commit a violent crime. This is an allegation in which my client may have made a dumb mistake in driving above the speed limit, that’s the allegation,” Barshis said.

Barshis relayed the seriousness of Jones’s injuries to the court, including broken limbs, the recent removal of a breathing tube and partial surgical removal of his colon, telling the court that there is currently no given timeframe for Jones’s recovery.

Judge Bender voiced her concerns with lowering the bail which included that, despite Jones’s lack of a criminal history, he had been involved in “two very alarming accidents” within the last year. The judge said that one of the two collisions appeared to have happened under similar circumstances to the March 19 collision where Jones was also speeding. The two previous collisions did not result in injuries or death, but they did result in heavy damage to Jones’ previous vehicles.

“In this case, the allegation, which I understand may be tested at trial, is that he was driving 112 miles per hour in a venue not designed, I’m not sure what venue would be designed for that other than a NASCAR track, but in a venue not designed for that kind of speed,” Judge Bender said. “So my concern here is the level of really impulsive behavior that’s alleged, in combination with a very recent history of a pattern of similar behavior.”

Barshis argued to Judge Bender that there has been “a lot of misinformation in the media” about the previous collisions, to which the judge said that she does not make decisions based on media coverage.

“I do want to be clear, I would never make a decision based on what’s on TV at night,” she said.

Barshis also asked that bail be lowered so that Jones’s parents would be permitted to be with him and support him while he undergoes more surgeries, saying that they have been prevented from interacting with their son.

“He is an 18-year-old kid that is stuck in a hospital bed, probably in the most serious condition of his life,” said Barshis. “And he’s been unable to see his parents and his parents have been unable to support him. We’re trying to get his parents to be able to see him.”

King County Prosecutor Amy Freedheim argued against lowering the bail amount.

“While this was not a — what was it? Just a ‘dumb mistake’ on behalf of this child, this 18-year-old young man, this is the third vehicle that he has had in 11 months, that he has totaled in 11 months,” Freedheim said.

Freedheim relayed details from the previous collisions and said that the state is concerned for community safety and concern for Jones’s parents.

“We have not seen that his parents are giving us any comfort that they will not flee with him, with all due respect,” Freedheim said. “They have never asked about the other victims in this case. We have no information that they will support his being held accountable in this case.”

Freedheim also talked about not allowing house detention if bail is posted.

“While he is currently in the hospital, we need to have some sort of understanding because under HIPAA, the defense doesn’t have to tell us when he is released from the hospital,” she said.

The families speak

Families of Andrea Hudson, Matilda, Eloise and Buster then spoke to the court on behalf of their loved ones.

Matilda and Eloise’s mother, Rivka Wilcoxson, said that she forgives Jones and that she prays for his healing, adding that she wants safety for the community and accountability.

“I have to say I’m a little concerned and shocked that there has been no, to my knowledge, no attempt to reach out to us or the Browns or Hudsons with any kind of message of sympathy or regret. That has been a little surprising to me,” she said. “I don’t know about the legal procedures involved with that. But even so, given Chase’s youth and inexperience, and trying to put myself in his position, I want him to be able to move forward in a healthy way, while also having appropriate accountability.”

Rivka’s husband, Chase Wilcoxson, also spoke to the court, saying that he does not hate Jones and that he has no desire for retribution, but that he does want what’s best for Jones and the community.

“I just question whether a lenient stance is best for Chase, or for the community,” Wilcoxson said. “I do want him to heal. And I do want his family to be able to be around him in a healing way.”

Buster’s father, Jaron Brown, said that while he also forgives Jones, he does not believe that the 18-year-old should be released.

“I’m aware that these sort of trials can last for a really long time. His arms and legs will heal and he’ll be basically free after release, after allegedly killing four people, and that doesn’t seem right to me,” he said. Brown also called Jones’s previous collisions “egregious” and that Jones demonstrates an “unwillingness to change and learn from past mistakes.”

Buster’s mother, Jessica Brown, said that while she also forgives Jones, she doesn’t know what the answer is and that she hasn’t seen any remorse or change.

“Sometimes in order to make the biggest changes in our life, we do need a struggle and we need some pain,” she said.

Brown said that she believes that Jones should be allowed to heal, but that he should then spend time in jail once he has recovered.

“We don’t know how long it’ll be before his sentence, and it could get pushed off more and more. And the further out it gets, maybe the less serious it will become,” she said.

The defense clarified the lack of communication to the Hudson, Wilcoxson and Brown families.

“I understand the fact that there has not been communication between the alleged victim, families and my client. That’s part of the legal process, unfortunately,” Barshis said. “And I’d like to give them that understanding as it doesn’t mean that there’s not a condolence from all sides.”

Barshis also argued that Jones would require physical therapy once he has recovered and that he would not receive proper therapy while in King County jail.

Judge’s ruling

Before Judge Bender made her ruling to the court, she explained the legal process of setting initial bail amounts, saying that she “didn’t have any other tools in [her] toolkit” and that, under Washington state law, judges must “start by assuming that every single person, no matter what they’re accused of, gets released from jail.”

“I can only overcome that presumption if I find a probability of future flight risk, violent crime or interference with the administration of justice, meaning someone’s going to violate orders of the court,” she said.

Judge Bender ruled that since she had become aware of the severity of Jones’ injuries and that they preclude his ability to operate a vehicle, that the bail would be reduced to $100,000, but under special conditions.

Since Jones’ family has posted his bail, and on Thursday, April 4 he was released from the hospital. He has been placed under electronic home detention with GPS monitoring, under order of the judge.

Jones was ordered to surrender his driver’s license and is not to drive or operate any cars, bicycles or skateboards, but would be allowed to use a medically-issued scooter if necessary.

The next omnibus hearing is scheduled for April 15, 2024. The court scheduled Jones’s trial to begin May 20, 2024.