In an emotionally charged appearance, Sharrod Lynn Stone, 44, on Thursday pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the deaths of two people last year.
Stone could spend eight years in jail for the deaths of Devin Grace Frantzke, 14, and Jeff Johnston, 55.
Devin and Johnston were thrown from Stone’s Jeep in the early morning hours of July 15 when he lost control and his vehicle rolled down a 20-foot embankment off Doll Baby Ranch Road. Neither Devin nor Johnston were wearing seat belts.
As Stone entered the Payson courtroom Thursday morning, Mark Frantzke, Devin’s father, stood and embraced him. The men held each other and sobbed.
Frantzke later told the Roundup what happened that night was a horrible accident. He defended Stone, saying his close friend never meant to hurt anyone and that the police reports had some inaccurate information about what occurred that night, including that Stone was drunk and driving recklessly.
However, Stone’s attorney, as part of the plea agreement, told the judge Thursday that Stone had drank upwards of 20 beers that day and was driving recklessly. Asked if he agreed with that account, Stone told the judge he did.
Eight people had piled into Stone’s open-top Jeep that night to go four-wheeling.
Devin and two of Stone’s sons sat in the rear cargo area of the Jeep, unrestrained.
“Because of possible speed involved, because of possible driving behavior at that time, the Jeep went off down an embankment approximately 23 feet and the Jeep rolled,” said David Roper, Stone’s attorney. “The people that were unrestrained in the Jeep came out.”
Roper added that the evidence showed Stone’s driving that night was reckless.
“Your lawyer has said you had enough alcohol and were driving at a sufficient speed that what you did was a gross deviation from what a reasonable person would have done,” said Superior Court Judge Robert Duber II.
Duber will sentence Stone at 10 a.m. June 13 in Payson. Stone faces four to eight years in prison.