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Suicidal driver gets life in prison after crash killed aspiring doctor, Calif. DA says


A suicidal Northern California driver, who survived a crash she caused but killed another driver, was sentenced last week to up to life in prison.

Grace Ward, a 29-year-old Red Bluff woman, intentionally sped north on the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Redding just after midnight on Jan. 7, according to prosecutors. Four cars swerved out of Ward’s way to avoid a collision, but Ward’s Chevrolet Impala eventually crashed head-on with a Honda Accord driven by 29-year-old Ryan Folsom of Medford, Oregon, according to California Highway Patrol.

There was a fiery wreck as Ward’s car flipped and spun in a circle, and Folsom’s vehicle slid down an embankment, the Medford Mail Tribune reported. Witnesses rushed to Ward’s burning car and dragged her from it.

“They risked their lives for her,” witness Leah Tuggle said, according to the newspaper, adding that Ward’s rescuers “didn’t know it was (Ward) that caused it.”

Folsom, a father of three little boys and a doctor in training, was driving to Sacramento to interview at UC Davis Medical Center before the collision killed him, prosecutors said.

Ward and Folsom were both seriously injured and taken to a hospital in Redding. Ward had a broken leg, but Folsom’s injuries killed him.

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Ward was arrested and booked at the Shasta County Jail on Jan. 30 on charges of second-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon and property damage, highway patrol officers said.

Ward’s actions showed “her complete disregard for the lives of everyone else on the highway that day, and directly caused the death of Ryan Folsom,” the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office said in announcing Ward’s charges. She was held on $1.5 million bail.

A judge sentenced Ward on Friday to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 18 years following Ward’s plea of guilty to second-degree murder and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, the district attorney’s office said.

Folsom’s wife and mother spoke at Ward’s sentencing, describing the family’s tragic loss and forgiving Ward, according to prosecutors. Folsom’s wife was expecting their third son when Folsom died.

Ward spoke at the sentencing as well, sometimes unable to control her sobbing, the Redding Record Searchlight reports.

“I cannot imagine the anguish you were going through. I wish I could take back that day, but I cannot change what happened,” Ward told Folsom’s family in court, according to the Record Searchlight. “And I am sorry for that. I was in a dark place in my life.”

A California Highway Patrol report said that Ward told an officer she planned to commit suicide by barreling into another driver, and that she used a median gap reserved for emergency vehicles to start driving the wrong way, the Record Searchlight reports.

Before the crash, officers said Ward spoke with her mother over the phone for seven minutes, and then the mother reported Ward’s suicide plan to emergency responders, according to the newspaper.

Folsom was a standout athlete in football and wrestling at North Medford High School, and went on to play as a running back at Brigham Young University, the Medford Mail Tribune reports.

“He was one of those guys who could crush things on a football field but he was a gentle, caring guy to hang out with,” said Ian Cropper, a friend of Folsom, according to the Mail Tribune. “He made people feel welcomed and invited. He lifted people around him.”

Folsom would have graduated in the top in his class at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s medical school in the spring of 2018, according to his obituary.

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