Audrain County Prosecuting Attorney Jacob Shellabarger announced on Monday the sentencing of a Centralia man to seven years in prison for his involvement in a 2013 crash that killed a 12-year-old girl.
Aaron Wormington, age 35, will spend seven years in the Missouri Department of Corrections after his conviction for Involuntary Manslaughter in the First Degree for a November 23, 2013, crash that killed Jade Stafford, of Columbia.
An Audrain County jury found Wormington guilty of the charges after a three-day trial in October.
Prosecuting Attorney Shellabarger asked Circuit Judge Wesley C. Dalton for the maximum sentence and that is what Wormington received.
“Aaron Wormington’s refusal to accept responsibility for his actions, show any remorse, or take any accountability meant he should be punished with the maximum sentence,” Shellabarger said in an issued statement. “During today’s sentencing hearing, Aaron Wormington never said he was sorry for what happened, and continued to blame Jade Stafford, and the other driver, for what happened, even after the evidence clearly and convincingly show that he was at fault. He continued to argue that everyone else but himself was responsible – that it didn’t matter how fast he was driving in the wrong lane of traffic that it was the other driver’s fault the crash occurred.”
The crash occurred at about 10 p.m. on November 23, 2013, on Commerce Road near the Missouri Plant Sciences Center in Mexico. Wormington, driving a Hyundai Sonata with Jade Stafford in the passenger seat, tried to pass a slower moving Ford F-250 truck, which was slowing and turning left. Wormington crashed into the side of the truck with enough force to separate the truck’s front axle from the truck, and the car continued into the ditch and overturned. At the time of impact, Wormington was driving in excess of 75 miles per hour. The impact crushed the passenger side of the car, and the car came to land on its top on the passenger side.
Jade Stafford died instantly. Wormington and the truck driver had been playing “CB Tag,” a hide-and-seek game, with friends. Many CB Tag players came to support Wormington in court at sentencing.
“Today’s sentencing was highly emotional – to have to listen to a mother who will never see her beautiful daughter again, a stepfather challenge Mr. Wormington to be a man and accept responsibility or be human and show compassion – and intense,” Shellabarger said. “Judge Dalton’s very strong sentence has delivered a powerful message to this community and to these families that choices and actions have consequences, and those who take a life will be held accountable. I think every driver in Audrain County should see the aftermath of this reckless decision – that cars are deadly weapons.Mr. Wormington’s decision to drive recklessly had fatal consequences. A smart, vibrant and friendly young girl was taken from her family and our community by his decisions to drive at high speed and try to pass a truck that was slowing and turning left on a two-lane road. Wormington’s decisions to drive at least 75 miles per hour in a risky and dangerous way had tragic consequences which Jade Stafford’s family will live with for the rest of their lives.”
Prosecuting Attorney Shellabarger noted the work done by the Missouri State Highway Patrol in the case.
“The Missouri State Highway Patrol deserves high praise for their caring and thorough investigation in this case,” Shellabarger said. “Troopers from Troop F Audrain County responded to this crash with a high level of skill and compassion and made a diligent and thorough investigation. Also, I want to recognize the excellent work of the Major Crash Investigation Unit, led by Sergeant Paul Meyers. The Crash Team works hundreds of crashes per year and does excellent, precise work. The jury valued his insight, thorough work and professionalism. Given this evidence, and the competent, complete and thorough investigation, our case provided the jurors a clear, consistent and thorough prosecution at trial with the victim and the community first, focusing on those decisions Aaron Wormington made and the lasting impact of this crash on Jade’s family. It is the team concept of experience, knowledge and combined resources which allowed this case to be fully investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and allowing justice to prevail by convicting Aaron Wormington for causing Jade’s death.”
Shellabarger said the victim advocate, Leigh Thomas, was patient beyond measure and supporting of the family through the entire criminal justice process, and continues to provide wraparound support that is crucial for victims of violent crimes.
“Our community must make sure the victim-blaming mentality is put to rest, as the focus should stay on the defendant, his actions and choices,” Shellabarger added. “Aaron Wormington’s choice to drive recklessly and dangerously took a young girl’s life, a daughter from her mom and dad, a role model and best friend from her younger brother, and a light from this world. I hope this verdict provides a measure of comfort for their pain. Aaron Wormington refused to take responsibility for his actions, and an Audrain County jury told him that he will be held accountable, and held him responsible for killing Jade. He deserves this lengthy, firm sentence.”
Wormington stated he intends to appeal the conviction, but remains in the Audrain County Jail on a $25,000 cash only bond pending appeal.