POLSON – A Lake County judge apologized to the family of Cassandra Harris, who died when she was pushed from a car last summer, saying even though she acknowledges their loss, she’s bound by the terms of a plea agreement between prosecutors and 18-year-old Donovan Sherwood. Sherwood, who is from Arlee, accepted the deal earlier this fall.
On Thursday morning, Sherwood sat silent as family members of Harris read prepared statements on how the unexpected death rocked the family.
Judge Deborah Kim Christopher listened and responded to the heartfelt comments by adding some unique requirements for Sherwood’s sentencing.
On June 24th, 24-year-old Harris was found in on a road near McDonald Lake in critical condition.
Several suspects emerged as Lake County Sheriff’s deputies investigated the matter and one suspect in the case, Donovan Sherwood, gave deputies a detailed account of what happened that night.
He told police that when Harris was trying to get back into a moving vehicle, 22-year-old Joe Parizeau pushed her out, causing Harris’s head to hit the pavement and killing her.
As part of Sherwood’s cooperation, he will only face an obstruction of justice charge and will have a three-year deferred sentence, a sentence that Harris’s family said is not enough.
“I do not feel that three years deferred is enough,” said Harris’ sister in court. “Your honor this is barely any consequence for him ruining the childhood of my nephew I believe that you as judge in this case has the power to stop any further leniency given to him.”
“I do not agree with Donovan’s plea agreement deal,” Harris’ mother said. “I feel that he, Donovan, has not properly owned up to what he helped cause happen to my daughter.”
Judge Christopher says that keeping the plea agreement is key in Sherwood’s compliance as a witness for the other trials.
“I absolutely can’t even imagine the loss that you feel and there is absolutely nothing that can be done in a courtroom ever that can put you back to a place where you are whole but the state has indicated to me that it is critical to have Mr. Donovan as a witness. Mr Sherwood, I’m sorry. As a witness in the cases as they go forward, it is the court’s intention to follow the plea agreement in this matter. I apologize to the family members. I would love to do something that would actually fix this for you folks, but even if I were to send him to prison for his entire life that does not bring her back.”
Christopher ordered Sherwood to write a report for his probation officer about the process of organ donations in recognition of Harris’ donation, and to give a presentation to the Boys and Girls’ Club twice a year after others in the case are tried.
Reporting by Connor McCauley for MTN News