Columbia man pleads guilty in fatal 2012 car crash

Monday, March 31, 2014 | 1:03 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — One day before his jury trial was set to begin, a 22-year-old Columbia man pleaded guilty Monday to three separate charges related to a Dec. 6, 2012, car crash in which one person died and another was so seriously injured that he remains in a coma.

Spencer Gordon, who was 20 at the time of the crash, testified he'd had "about four or five beers" at Deja Vu Comedy Club before he left in his Volkswagen Beetle. He eventually crossed the median on Providence Road at the Hinkson Creek bridge and struck an oncoming pickup truck.

The driver of the truck, Michael Tufts, who was 23 at the time of the crash, remains in a coma. One of the passengers in his car,  Michelle Morrow, 24, was killed in the two-car crash. She was a graduate of MU.

Gordon's blood alcohol content was .122 when a field sobriety test was administered, according to the probable cause statement in the case.

He pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree involuntary manslaughter and two counts of second-degree assault, with the sentences to be served concurrently, as the result of a plea negotiation. The maximum penalty is 15 years. Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Morrell asked for seven years on each charge.

The Tufts family was in the courtroom for the plea, and Tufts' mother, Patricia Tufts, brought her hand to her face and lowered her head when Circuit Judge Christine Carpenter asked Gordon questions about the assault charge related to the injuries suffered by Michael Tufts. Robert Tufts put his arm around his wife as Gordon answered that he was aware that Michael Tufts was in the vehicle he struck.

The plea negotiation stipulates that Gordon can't face an additional charge should Tufts die. 

Both families have lawsuits pending against Deja Vu, which has denied any responsibility or wrongdoing, according to a statement through its attorney, Jeffrey Lester.

At the time of the crash, the club was owned by Mike McClung, according to the lawsuit.

Neither the Tufts or Morrow families have responded to requests for interviews, on the advice of their attorneys.

The next hearing in the civil suit won't be for about another month, according to Morrow family attorney Andrew Kopp, as Judge Gary Oxenhandler had to recuse himself due to a family connection with the Morrows. The case will have to be added to another judge's docket. 

Gordon's sentencing hearing was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on June 1.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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