Truck driver pleads to vehicular homicide

LEAVENWORTH — A Colorado man has pleaded no contest to five counts of vehicular homicide in connection to a 2017 crash in southern Leavenworth County.

Kenny B. Ford, 59, entered the plea Friday in Leavenworth County District Court. The charges stemmed from a July 11, 2017, crash on Interstate 70 near 174th Street.

Ford was driving a 2015 Freightliner truck in the westbound lanes of the interstate when he was involved in a multi-vehicle crash that resulted in the deaths of Teresa J. Butler, Karen L. Kennedy, Sheldon H. Cohen, Virginia Cohen and Ricardo Mireles.

Speaking in court Friday, Assistant County Attorney Shawn Boyd said the crash occurred as Ford was approaching a turnpike toll plaza that was under construction.

Boyd said there were signs posted to alert drivers to the construction zone. Boyd said traffic ahead of Ford already had slowed down. But Boyd said Ford failed to slow down despite warnings and his truck struck several vehicles.

Ford’s attorney, Benjamin Casad, said Friday that he had attempted to work out a plea agreement with prosecutors. But no agreement was reached.

Casad told the judge that his client intended to plead no contest to all of the charges. Casad said there was no question his client was driving a truck at the time of the crash.

“He wasn’t intoxicated or anything like that,” he said.

After Ford entered the plea, Gibbens found the defendant guilty of the charges.

Gibbens said the maximum penalty for each of the five vehicular homicide counts is one year in the Leavenworth County Jail and a $2,500 fine.

If the sentences for the five counts were to be ordered to run consecutively, Ford could face five years in jail and a total fine of $12,500, the judge said. Sentencing is scheduled for March 20.