WALSENBURG — Emotions ran high on both sides as a young Pueblo man was sentenced to community corrections for a fatal traffic accident on Highway 12 just after the 2014 Cuchara County Music Festival. District Judge Claude Appel sentenced Tyler Spinuzzi, 25, to four years at the Alamosa Community Corrections facility during a hearing Monday in district court in Walsenburg. The accident happened on June 14, 2014, when the 2005 Chevy Silverado, driven by Spinuzzi left the highway and struck a tree. The initial Colorado State Patrol report said the driver failed to negotiate a curve and struck a tree. Ambre Cassio, 25, died at the scene, while Spinuzzi fled the location and turned himself in to authorities the next day. It was not possible to obtain a blood alcohol content reading from the defendant due to the one-day delay. Spinuzzi had entered a plea of guilty to vehicular homicide-reckless and the probation department had recommended the four year community corrections sentence. District Attorney Frank Ruybalid asked the court to impose the maximum community correction sentence of six years. Defense attorney Joseph Koncilja of Pueblo had sought probation for his client. Information presented at
the sentencing hearing this week showed Spinuzzi had two DWAI (driving while ability impaired) convictions in his past and was on probation at the time of the fatal crash last summer. “All of her dreams, and ours, are gone now, “ Eleanor Cassio, the victim’s mother told the court, “We will never see her get married and have children of her own,” she said sobbing. “We miss her dearly, her life mattered to us.” Two of the defendant’s sisters and his father, Carl Spinuzzi, also addressed the court. Terra Spinuzzi saying, “Tyler made a terrible decision that had fatal consequences. No sentence you give him will measure up to the punishment in his own mind.” Carl Spinuzzi told the court this tragedy has hurt their family as well. “As a father I have had to watch my son’s pain and sorrow at Ambre’s death,” he said. “I realize my actions have caused irreparable damages. I cannot change the decisions I made and their effects of the past, but I pledge to make a commitment to be an honest representative of the community,” the defendant said before sentence was imposed. Spinuzzi apologized to Ambre’s family, many of whom cried softly during the entire hearing. Even the court was moved. “This hits home, it happened near my home,” Judge Appel said. “This is a case, all to familiar nationwide”, he said. He said while many studies show young people’s brains are not fully formed until their 20s, he said directly to the defendant, “We’re all ultimately responsible for the decisions we make, wouldn’t you agree Tyler?” “Yes sir,” the defendant said in a soft voice. Appel said components of community corrections should ensure the defendant has an opportunity to work, to attend therapy for substance abuse issues and the comparative isolation of the facility will give the defendant time to reflect on the incident that killed his close friend. He reminded Spinuzzi if he walked away or was kicked out of the community corrections program his sentence would revert to one served in the Colorado Department of Corrections.