Man sentenced in hit-and-run crash that killed Colo. firefighter

The man was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for leaving the scene after striking and killing Greeley Firefighter Steve Kuzik


Trevor Reid
Greeley Tribune, Colo.

GREELEY, Colo. — A man who crashed into a Greeley firefighter, killed him and left the scene of the crash was sentenced Tuesday after hearing almost an hour of victim statements in a Weld District courtroom.

Weld District Court Judge Vincente Vigil sentenced 26-year-old Cody Boetger to 10 1/2 years in prison in accordance with a plea deal with the Weld District Attorney’s Office. Boetger received 321 days credit on that sentence for time served in the Weld County Jail.

Greeley Firefighter Steve Kuzik was struck and killed in a hit-and-run crash while driving his motorcycle to work last April. Cody Boetger was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for leaving the scene of the crash after striking and killing Kuzik. (Photo/Greeley Fire Department - Greeley, Colorado Facebook)
Greeley Firefighter Steve Kuzik was struck and killed in a hit-and-run crash while driving his motorcycle to work last April. Cody Boetger was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for leaving the scene of the crash after striking and killing Kuzik. (Photo/Greeley Fire Department - Greeley, Colorado Facebook)

Boetger pleaded guilty in January to one count of leaving the scene of a crash involving death, a Class 3 felony punishable by up to 12 years in prison. A count of misdemeanor driving under restraint was dropped.

Boetger was also facing five years of mandatory probation upon his release from prison, but a recent change in the law reduced the probation period to three years.

More than 40 people packed the courtroom Tuesday afternoon, including more than a dozen uniformed firefighters from the Greeley Fire Department.

About 6:30 a.m. April 25, Greeley firefighter Steve Kuzik, 58, was riding his motorcycle to Station 1 when Boetger struck him head-on with a GMC Suburban in the 1300 block of 5th Street. Kuzik was a 21-year veteran of the department.

Before Vigil sentenced Boetger, five people spoke about the loss of Kuzik, including his wife, his son, his niece, a Greeley battalion chief and a Greeley firefighter. Kuzik’s wife, Lea Kuzik, read a statement from Kuzik’s 9-year-old grandson. Weld Deputy District Attorney Ashley Fetyko, who prosecuted the case, read additional statements from others in the fire department.

Greeley Fire Battalion Chief Kevin Maloney was the first to speak.

“You killed my best friend,” Maloney said. “You left Steve for dead, lying in the gutter, and all you had to do was stop.”

Maloney detailed how Boetger severed Kuzik’s spinal cord, basically decapitating Kuzik from the inside. If not for a Greeley police officer happening across Boetger’s heavily damaged vehicle after the crash, Maloney said he believes Boetger would have ditched the vehicle in north Weld County.

Many who spoke Tuesday talked about Kuzik’s excellence not only as a firefighter, but as a friend, a father and a mentor to others.

“We’re still trying to catch up with everything we lost when you killed Steve,” Maloney said.

Maloney called the plea deal “lousy,” adding he doesn’t believe Boetger cares about what he had done. Boetger previously told the court he wasn’t aware he had hit anyone after the crash, a statement one of his defense attorneys stood by at the sentencing. Vigil said he doesn’t believe Boetger’s claim of ignorance, considering the smoke coming out of his vehicle after the crash and Boetger’s experience as a professional truck driver.

Lea Kuzik read a statement from Nikolas Kuzik, her 9-year-old grandson. Nikolas spoke fondly of his grandfather, remembering all the things they did together.

“You took away a good man,” Lea Kuzik read from the statement, which was addressed to Boetger. “I hate you for what you did.”

Lea Kuzik was unable to name Boetger, saying she had no respect for him. She and Steve Kuzik had been together for more than 40 years. She said she hopes to forgive Boetger some day, but added that no sentence he serves would be long enough.

Those from the department talked about Steve Kuzik as someone they could lean on in hard times, not just for advice within the service, but also for life advice.

Fetyko said it was ironic Boetger, whose selfish actions took Kuzik’s life, killed Kuzik, whose selflessness lied at the essence of his everyday actions. She added Boetger’s claim he never knew he struck Kuzik didn’t make sense when the crash was loud enough to wake up a resident near the crash and alert drivers who were ahead of Boetger and looked back to see the wreckage.

A defense attorney for Boetger read statements from his grandmother, his wife and Boetger himself. Boetger’s grandmother painted a picture of Boetger growing up in a troubled home in California before Boetger moved to Greeley. His wife gave her condolences to Kuzik’s family. Boetger apologized for how it affected “both (their) families.”

Vigil outlined the loss to Kuzik’s family, the fire department and the community that Boetger caused, adding that he hopes Boetger uses his time in prison to become better. Some who spoke previously in the hearing said they hoped Boetger could be the final life Kuzik selflessly saved.

After the hearing, firefighters and family members of Kuzik gathered outside the courtroom, embracing each other. Lea Kuzik tearfully thanked everyone who has supported her and her family.

———

©2020 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Copyright © 2020 firerescue1.com. All rights reserved.