Where's the Other Driver in the Bryant Wilkerson Case? Not in Jail...

By any standard, Laura Varker has had quite a year.

In the past nine months alone, the 19-year-old has been booked for shoplifting, receiving stolen property and failing to yield at an intersection (an action linked to her third car accident in as many years). The authorities found Varker's ID in the backpack of a confessed coke dealer and issued a warrant for her failure to appear in court.

Most shockingly, last month, police got a search warrant to seize Varker's clothing and DNA after a fellow partygoer ended up in critical condition, a knife stuck in his carotid artery. A neighbor told police that he saw Varker and a friend loading the victim's body into a car bound for the emergency room — the knife still firmly attached — while other partygoers frantically scrubbed away the blood stains.

Not too many college students keep so busy. And what makes it even more impressive is that Varker's done it all while on probation for drunk driving.

Yep, nine short months ago, Varker pleaded guilty to DUI and was almost entirely let off the hook. Never mind that the accident killed her 15-year-old passenger. Her lawyer argued that her drunk driving and the passenger's death were unrelated, and the justice of the peace bought it.

Varker got just one day in jail.

To be fair, there were some stipulations. She had to put an Interlock device on her car. She had to agree not to consume alcohol. And, she agreed to "at all times be a law-abiding citizen."

You can see how well that turned out.


If the name Laura Varker sounds familiar, well, that's because I've spilled plenty of ink writing about the other driver involved in the car accident that killed Varker's passenger. Bryant Wilkerson was making a legal U-turn when Varker, impatient, attempted to pass him. When Wilkerson's bumper clipped her SUV, it began rolling over and over, killing 15-year-old Felicia Edwards.

As anyone who's followed this case could tell you, Wilkerson stupidly fled the scene. When sheriff's deputies caught up with Wilkerson a few miles later, they were already convinced that he was drunk and to blame for the accident.

But accident reconstruction — and a few blood alcohol tests — would prove them wrong. It was Varker who was speeding, Varker who crossed the double yellow lines, and Varker who was, in fact, drunk.

Bizarrely, the new information changed nothing; the county never wavered in its zeal to prosecute Wilkerson. County Attorney Andrew Thomas didn't just charge the 28-year-old postal worker with manslaughter, he actually charged him with aggravated assault, for imperiling Varker, the drunk driver who hit him!

Only in Maricopa County, kids.

After my column on the situation was published, Thomas ultimately farmed out the case to another agency to see whether Varker should also face charges. (That's where the DUI came from.) But the disparate treatment the two drivers received was shocking.

Indeed, after Wilkerson's jury found him not guilty in April, I talked to three of its members. They were all emphatic in the belief that the wrong driver had been on trial.

They reiterated those thoughts at Wilkerson's May sentencing hearing. A total of six jurors ultimately offered public support for Wilkerson, and argued for leniency. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders, a veteran of nearly 100 jury trials, acknowledged she had never seen anything like it. At their urging, she sentenced Wilkerson to three years of probation.

Interestingly, the jurors didn't just talk about how Wilkerson deserved a break.

They held Varker responsible.

Listening to them in the courtroom, it struck me that these women should have made dynamite pro-prosecution jurors. The women who spoke were all white, middle class, in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. They were no-nonsense types: mothers, teachers, auditors. In any normal trial, they'd probably side with law and order.

Instead, the jurors were angry that the prosecution went after Wilkerson with such force when Varker was off the hook.

"It's a tragedy, it's horrible, but the person that should be paying for it is not in this room today," the forewoman, an IT compliance analyst named Gail Dempsey, told Judge Sanders. "Today, she's off gallivanting around somewhere."

"This is a rich man, poor man case," added juror Ellen Thomas, a retired teacher. "The rich parent is allowed to get their child free of any charges. The poor man is held responsible for everything that happened."

Varker was lucky that they didn't come after her with tar and feathers. But rather than feel grateful, she's seemed determined to prove the jurors right.

After Varker pleaded guilty to DUI last summer, prosecutors dropped all other charges against her. But at her sentencing in October, the 18-year-old could have still faced up to 180 days in prison.

The victim's mother pleaded with the justice of the peace handling the case, John Tolby, to go for the max. But her friends promised that Varker had matured since her passenger's death one year earlier. Varker's lawyer wrote of her "remarkable character." Family friends noted that she was spending more time with her family, at home. And Varker's "best friend," Nina Jimenez, vowed that she had "grown superbly."

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15 comments
PTCGAZ
PTCGAZ

Wow typical republican daughter!

Just think, it goes to prove that even with lots of money you can turn out rotten.

Just hope she gets the help she really needs!

TheBestRedDress
TheBestRedDress

What a sad human being. I couldn't imagine being this useless and hurtful and being okay with it. Sad.

asdh
asdh

The news provides miSINformating. and missing information haha. This article is funny. How about you post the police report on here and tell us what really happened.

JgH
JgH

I am amazed that this is still going on, not really, Laura has been doing this since 5th grade, and her parents have been continually covering up ever since. We have lost love ones to DUI accidents, I wonder, are they waiting to have Laura KILL again?, let us hope not a family this next time. Maybe the courts are waiting for her to be dealing on an elementary school play ground (Oh, I do believe she may have already allegedly done that). Laura's example she is setting a precedence that if mommy and daddy have money to get you out of criminal trouble, "go for it". Sad, Laura's needs to do time, hard time, whether or not it would do any good, who knows, I don't think Laura has a concern for human life, her actions make that statement. Laura needs to be accountable for her actions, her parents have FAILED, as a concerned citizen I am asking why wait for other deaths.

DIRTY LAUNDRY
DIRTY LAUNDRY

Thomas picks and chooses who he will destroy and who he will let off the hook. His motivations are all self serving. This Varker girl is a train wreck. She is a danger to herself and to the general public. I am sure her dead friends family regrets the day their daughter met her.Thomas is motivated by his own selfish ambitions. He is much like Ms. Varker... self absorbed, reckless,and a danger to those around them.

YOURS TRUELY
YOURS TRUELY

HEY HAL! THANKS FOR YOUR COMMENT! IM HONORED TO HAVE GOTTEN A FEW MINUTES OF YOUR DAY :]

Free Hal Turner
Free Hal Turner

This bitch will eventually take herself out of the gene pool. Either through drugs, alcohol or a vehicle crash. More than likely all 3. Sad her parents are such tools.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Title: "Bryant Wilkerson Sentenced to Probation -- Prosecutor Asked for Prison"

Why does the prosecutor ask for prison? This is where they (MCSO and MCAO) hide all their mistakes and those they retaliate against, or simply those they want cleansed out of society, known as "social cleansing".

The game is up. The DOJ, FBI, CIA, Senate Judiciary and the United Nations are all investigating and should certainly hear the outcry by the people of the injustice in Arizona done on a daily basis. Without the Phoenix New Times and outstanding reporters like Sarah Fenske, Stephen Lemons, Paul Rubin, people of Arizona continue to remain uninformed.

Investigation Needed
Investigation Needed

David Saint hit the nail on the head!

"That MCSO bungles investigations due to pre-judgements instead of gathering the facts and using those as a basis for judgement. Not only this case, but the recent revelation about the El Mirage girl and her rape case that took them 7 years to actually investigate due to their writing her off as promiscuous as if it were her fault.

That Andy Thomas's political stance on DUI is exactly that, political"

Sarah, great investigative reporting to show the public what they are facing when a County Attorney fails to do his job but cherry picks cases, hides cases they seriously botched -- which result in destroyed lives, families, careers and threaten society. Incompetence and malicious prosecution come to mind.

Thomas is the most dangerous person in Arizona!

TommyReb
TommyReb

I've always said that Phoenix was a great city to be FROM and this mess just futher illustrates the point! This little bimbo from hell has already caused the death of one person and apparently tried to help cover up the attempted murder of another. Adding insult to injury, she's got "sticky fingers" and a dope dealing boyfriend. When is the probation department, the MCSO, or Candy Thomas going to get their shit together and get her off of the streets? This is a no-brainer, but the three entitities I just mentioned must have less than no brains - a perfect vacuum between their ears!!!

sexyluv
sexyluv

LAURA VARKER IS SOOO FINE! SHES I LIKE A CELEBRITY NOW HUH?! IF UR READING THIS WILL YOU MARRY ME?

david saint
david saint

Heres what this also shows:That MCSO bungles investigations due to pre-judgements instead of gathering the facts and using those as a basis for judgement. Not only this case, but the recent revelation about the El Mirage girl and her rape case that took them 7 years to actually investigate due to their writing her off as promiscuous as if it were her fault. That Andy Thomas's political stance on DUI is exactly that, political. He obviously doesnt believe in it, otherwise this girl would have done some time and likely straightened out a bit. Instead, she has now gathered a nice criminal resume, and been involved in 2 serious crimes. She very well may have been just trying to help, but with the fact that everyone including the suspect was washing blood away its hard to believe it wasnt to help the cover up. Either way, the lost part here is the complete failure of the probation department to require her to abide by the rules of probation, and follow all laws. Having said that, its sad this girl is still on the road, or free for that matter. I actually pity her because it seems as if her parents dont care that she is headed down a path that leads to death or prison.

TommyC
TommyC

Contrast this to the situation with a daughter of the Chief of Police at Scottsdale. The Chief held her completely responsible and made her go through the criminal justice process like anyone else. Most recently, I believe one of his sons also had some conflict with the law. Same treatment.

Ms. Varker seems to be taken care of by her parents, who seem to be enabling her bad behavior. If that's so, they aren't doing her any favors, just helping her take the trodden path to prison.

It might also be that the parents have nothing to do with her behavior and she's just an asshole. That happens too.

In any event, once she is caught up with I would think a JP or Judge might actually give her some county time in tent city to become clean and dry. She doesn't seem to be able or willing to do so on her own.

Coz
Coz

Welcome to Nazicopz County where real the truth & justice mean nothing.

I wonder how my Daddy has contributed to Candy Dandy (I could care less about the truth) Thomas's campaign.

azsunset1982
azsunset1982

Amazing.....it is still true in Phoenix.....the one with the money is always "innocent" and the poor one gets slammed. How many innocent are spending another night in Prison or jail because some ones rich darling is playing around? Enough is enough........i want equal justice. I thought Justice is supposed to be blind.....where are the parents of this piece of garbage? do they know what kind of monster they have created? If they hurt one of mine Justice will be served .TRUST ME I WONT NEED THOMAS FOR THAT!

 
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