The Audrain County Prosecuting Attorney Jacob Shellabarger announced that Aaron Wormington, 35, of Centralia, Missouri, was found guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter in the First Degree for a November 23, 2013, crash that killed Jade Stafford, 12, of Columbia.
The jury found Wormington guilty of the charges after deliberating for almost three hours. Prosecuting Attorney Shellabarger and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ashley Turner tried the case October 19-20 to an Audrain County jury.
Wormington will be sentenced December 7 by Circuit Judge Wesley C. Dalton, who presided over the trial at the Audrain County Courthouse in Mexico.
“Mr. Wormington’s decision to drive reckless had fatal consequences,” Shellabarger said.
“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. Mr. 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.”
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 F250 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 m.p.h. 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.
“The jury was very attentive to the evidence, and listened intently to the facts through this trial.” Shellabarger said. “I commend them for their focus, persistence and dedication to a just result. This jury 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.”
“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.”
“Our victim advocate Leigh Thomas has been patient beyond measure and supportive of the family through the entire criminal justice process, and will continue to provide that wraparound support that is crucial for victims of violent crimes: that they are heard in by the Court, supported, safe and protected,” Shellabarger said. “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. 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 today told him that he will be held accountable, and held him responsible for killing Jade.”