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'It shatters us': Family, friends remember beloved bicyclist killed by impaired driver in Lakewood

Driver was sentenced to maximum sentence of 8 years in prison
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Posted at 1:30 PM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-08 15:40:13-04

DENVER — An impaired driver who veered into a national cycling champion in Lakewood in May 2021, killing her, was sentenced on Tuesday afternoon after emotional victim impact statements from her family and friends.

Gwen Inglis, 46, died on May 16, 2021 after Ryan Scott Montoya, then-29 years old, drove into her while she rode her bike in a bike lane on W. Alameda Parkway near near S. Indiana Street, just south of Green Mountain, according to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office.

Montoya stayed at the scene and appeared impaired, according to the district attorney's office. He was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs.

On Tuesday, he was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Full video: Family, friends remember beloved bicyclist killed by impaired driver in Lakewood during sentencing hearing

Inglis is remembered as a reigning cycling national road race champion. She was one of the top athletes in the nation for the sport, a friend said.

Her death was mourned across the Colorado cycling community.

In a statement published in The Denver Post, the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado said: “There are few words that can express the feeling of loss for any of our cycling community, and Gwen was a particularly special person. She was a multiple National and State Champion on the bike and very well-known across the cycling community in Colorado. Even more impressive was her character off the bike. Knowing Gwen, you would immediately be aware of her strongest qualities. She consistently brought joy into all her relationships, and she openly accepted everyone.”

A cycling friend said Inglis and her husband, Michael Inglis, were training at the time, and her husband saw Montoya veer off the road and hit his wife. He was not hurt, though he reported that Montoya came close to hitting him — by about three inches, he said — just before striking his wife, who was about 100 meters in front of him, according to the district attorney's office.

While he was "the crazy one," she was always grounded and involved in her community, Michael Inglis said.

“She always knew what was going on in everybody's world, what kid was sick, what kid just broke their arm, and she could go and after not talking to somebody for six months, and she would remember what was going on in their life six months ago," he said Tuesday. "That's one of the things that I'm trying to take forward with me is to be more involved in other people's world. And trying to be like Gwen.”

Michael Inglis said they rode bikes all over the country. But on Tuesday, he rode on a tandem bike with an empty back seat, along with a group of supporters, from Denver to the courthouse in Golden. Many people in the courtroom on Tuesday were still wearing their cycling gear.

“We're hoping that the awareness of this ride will show that there's consequences to one's actions," he said.

They were not only husband and wife, but teammates, he said.

Friends and family asked that the community donate to Elim Christian Services in honor of Inglis.

The same week as Inglis' death, two other Colorado cyclists were struck and killed by drivers, leading bicyclists to demand changes to make streets safer.

Montoya was charged in May 2021 with vehicular homicide - DUI, vehicular homicide - reckless driving, infliction of serious bodily injury to a vulnerable road user, driving under the influence - second alcohol related offense, improper changing of lanes, and passing on the left improperly.

Court documents show that he pleaded guilty on April 6, 2022 to vehicular homicide - DUI.

The sentencing hearing began on Tuesday afternoon with a video tribute to Inglis, and featured many photos of her with her husband and friends.

Multiple people praised Inglis and demanded change during victim impact statements.

"When someone like Gwen Inglis is taken senselessly from this world, there are hearts, and families, and friends that will never ever be the same," said Holly Bell, a friend of Inglis. "It's just unfathomable."

Inglis' sister, Julie Erffmeyer, said she spread joy everywhere she went.

"What we need and what Gwen would want is change," she said.

Their brother, Keith, said she was, in a single word, selfless. He said every time he sees a cyclist on the road, he thinks of his sister.

"Please protect this community for as long as you possibly can from this individual and his demonstrated behavior," he said to the judge. "We've all suffered enough."

Inglis' parents, who flew in from Chicago, said instead of flying to Colorado to see their daughter, they flew to see her gravestone.

"It shatters us," Gerry Erffmeyer, her father, said.

He added that they pray that he changes the direction of his life.

Michael Inglis, her husband, also spoke at the hearing. He recalled watching the car hit her. He said his last words to her were, "I love you."

Montoya could have spent up to 12 years in prison, but both sides had already agreed to a sentence cap of eight years. When the judge inquired about this decision, Inglis' family said they wanted to avoid a trial. Eight years would be in the max under this agreement. The defense said there was also concern about complexities in the charges and how a jury may understand them.

Following victim impact statements, the prosecution stated that Montoya had just left a 48-hour bender when he got into his car. He had marijuana, Xanax, and methamphetamine in his system, they said. Ten days before the crash, he faced another allegation of driving under the influence, they said.

The defense read a statement from the first officer to arrive on scene and talk with Montoya the day of the crash. Montoya was crying and asking if Inglis was OK, the statement reads.

His friends and family said while he was a drug addict, he has a good heart, and sitting in jail for a year cleared his head.

He addressed the court, asking for six years instead of eight. As he spoke, apologizing first, his voice shook.

"I desperately wanted her to live. I called the paramedics to save her. I wish they could have," he said. "My soul seeks forgiveness for an unforgivable act. ... However, I am accountable for my actions. It must be devastating. The grief you feel must be excruciating. ... I vow to get sober, clean, and never drive under the influence again. I want to live a good life in honor of Gwen."

The judge said that by all accounts, Gwen Inglis was an "extraordinary human being," adding about Montoya that "the ravages of addiction don't justify the death of another person."

The judge then sentenced Montoya to eight years in prison, plus three years of probation. He will receive 355 days of pre-sentence confinement credit.

Montoya has a prior criminal record including several traffic offenses and one DUI in 2014, according to the district attorney's office.