Ellington sentenced in road-rage case

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SHAWN GUST/Press Jonathan W. Ellington, 51, embraces his wife in a closed-door meeting with council Tuesday after a jury read their verdict following a lengthy deliberation. Ellington was found guilty on second degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery charges.

COEUR d’ALENE — Jonathan W. Ellington might be spending only two more years in prison.

Ellington, convicted of second-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery by a Kootenai County jury earlier this year, has already served six years behind bars.

He was sentenced on Monday in 1st District Court by Judge John Luster to 18 years in prison, but only eight years of that time is mandatory. He was given credit for the time he’s already spent behind bars.

“You engaged in conduct that cost a human life,” Luster said.

Ellington, 51, was sentenced to a fixed term of six years on the battery charges, but that sentence will be served at the same time as his time for murder.

A jury in January found he deliberately ran over and killed 41-year-old Vonette Larsen with his Chevrolet Blazer and rammed a car occupied by two of her daughters on New Year’s Day 2006.

Evidence at his trial showed he got tangled up in a road-rage incident with Larsen’s daughters, Joleen and Jovon.

Vonette and her husband, Joel, helped the sisters chase Ellington, eventually cornering him on Scarcello Road, less than a mile east of Twin Lakes Village and Highway 41.

Ellington rammed the car driven by the sisters, then ran over Vonette Larsen, who had exited another car and was on foot.

Luster said “poor decisions” were made “across the board” by all the parties involved in the incident.

“I’ll never be able to make sense of the behaviors of that day,” Luster said.

He said the Larsens have denied responsibility for Vonette Larsen’s death. He said they “clearly” share in the responsibility.

Luster said people who encounter an angry motorist are “best suited to avoid that angry motorist, and that if Ellington had wrecked his Blazer fleeing from the Larsens and died, the tables would have been turned.

But, he said, he was not there to judge them, but only Ellington.

He described Ellington as a “disaster waiting to happen,” a man with a history of assault and substance abuse problems.

Ellington didn't speak during the sentencing hearing, instead submitting a written statement to the judge.

Ellington, who has been out on bond and living in Utah with family, was handcuffed and taken into custody by the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department.

One of his defense lawyers, Anne Taylor, told Luster, "Your honor, he has remorse."

She said any more time in prison would only serve to punish Ellington.

Along with punishment, a judge also can consider deterrence and protection of society when sentencing.

Taylor said Ellington has "worked to change himself," including finding religion and reconnecting with family.

"He went back to the faith he was raised in," she said.

Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor Art Verharen said, "What he did that day was something that he did by choice," including hitting the Larsen sisters' car with his Blazer, then running over Vonette.

Verharen added, "He takes no responsibility for the actions he took that day."

Mark Ellington, Ellington's younger brother, from Ogden, Utah, said, "He feels the loss. It's constantly on his mind."

Jovon Larsen said she "watched a crazed man run over our mother."

She called him an "angry, violent, drunken murderer."

The Idaho Supreme Court overturned an initial conviction and allowed a new jury trial, citing perjury by a prosecution witness and prosecutorial misconduct. The previous trial was in 2006.

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