New Year’s Eve is forever changed for the family of Daniel Pyfferoen. On Monday, they saw the driver of the car who killed their loved one sentenced to four years in prison.
Jordan Christopher Wilde, 22, of Byron, received his sentence in Olmsted County District Court after expressing remorse for his actions on New Year’s Eve 2016, that resulted in the death of the 60-year-old Byron man.
Wilde was convicted April 4 of felony criminal vehicular homicide-operate a vehicle with negligence under the influence of a controlled substance. Judge Lisa Hayne sentenced Wilde to 48 months in prison — two-thirds, or 32 months of the sentence, is to be served in prison with the remaining third to be served on supervised release. Wilde received credit for 72 days already served, according to court records.
Addressing the court, Wilde said he has taken full responsibility for his actions and that a day doesn’t go by that he doesn’t think about what he had done.
“It shouldn’t have been him who left this world,” Wilde said of Pyfferoen. “For my actions, it should have been me.”
On Dec. 31, 2016, Wilde was driving west in the eastbound lane of Olmsted County Road 4, also known as Valleyhigh Road, when his car crashed into an eastbound car driven by Pyfferoen, according to court documents. Wilde was traveling about 62 mph at the time of the crash.
Pyfferoen’s vehicle ended up in the south ditch. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Wilde was under the influence of THC and alprazolam, a controlled substance that’s sold under the brand name Xanax, according to court records.
Pyfferoen’s son, daughter and daughter-in-law spoke in court Monday. Joel Pyfferoen recalled being woken up at 1 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2017, by his wife telling him the police wanted to talk to him, and the subsequent calls at 2 a.m. informing family and friends of his father’s death.
“Breaking all their hearts,” Joel said.
Pyfferoen’s daughter-in-law, Samantha Pyfferoen, recalled a man she knew only as “Hambone” for a year after meeting him and told the judge that Wilde needed the maximum sentence.
“We don’t want another family to go through this,” she said.
New Year’s is no longer a happy event for the family, said Julia Bruender, the victim’s daughter. Every well-wish was like “getting punched in the gut,” she said.
“Jordan deserves to spend time in prison,” Bruender said. “He deserves to know what it’s like to lose time.”
“He deserves to have something taken from him, and time will suffice,” she concluded.
Probation or prison?
Wilde’s attorney filed a motion earlier this month asking the judge to depart from sentencing guidelines. In the motion, attorney Thomas Raymond Braun argued that Wilde was “particularly amenable to probation,” has no previous criminal record, “is and has experienced remorse, and has taken responsibility for his actions,” and that the level of THC in Wilde’s system at the time of the crash was indiscernible, according to the filing.
In court, Braun reiterated that Wilde was extremely remorseful for his actions and that he takes full responsibility for his conduct. Wilde’s upbringing, Braun said, was wrought with substance abuse and he was subject to verbal and physical abuse.
Wilde completed an inpatient program at the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge and participated in after-care at a center in Kasson, Braun said.
“He has spent a significant amount of time dealing with the everyday reality that he took someone’s life as a result of his drug usage,” he said.
Olmsted County District Attorney Mark Ostrem urged the court not to grant a departure from sentencing guidelines.
“Forty-eight months is a very, very short period of time compared to the 20-plus years Mr. Pyferroen lost, that his family has lost,” Ostrem said.
Handing down the sentence
Laying out the reasoning for her sentence, Hayne said the case was a tough one for the court.
“The last thing I would want to do is send a 22-year-old to prison. You have your whole life ahead of you,” Hayne said. “I do see you taking responsibility for what you did back in 2016 as a 19-year-old immature boy.”
Hayne said that while she was happy Wilde underwent inpatient treatment for substance use issues, it did come after he was arrested on a new charge. That new charge — felony fifth-degree drug sales — troubled her, Hayne said.
“On Dec. 31, 2016, you did something that impacted many people’s lives by taking away a grandfather, father, brother,” Hayne said. “His life is gone and he did have a lot of life ahead of him.”
Wilde was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs immediately following the hearing.