NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Williamson County jury has found Ashley Kroese guilty in the death of Brentwood Police Officer Destin Legieza.
On Friday, the jury announced its verdict, finding the 26-year-old guilty on all counts: vehicular homicide by intoxication, vehicular homicide - 0.08% blood alcohol content or greater, vehicular homicide by reckless conduct, and reckless aggravated assault resulting in death.
She will return to court on March 30 for sentencing. Kroese faces between eight to 12 years in prison. Due to the nature of the crime, she will have to serve the majority of her sentence before she is eligible for parole.
Watch the jury deliver their verdict below:
Kroese was taken into custody shortly after the verdict was delivered. She had been out on bond since her arrest in the summer of 2020.
District Attorney Kim Helper said the handcuffs used to escort Kroese out of the courtroom belonged to Officer Legieza.
An outburst of emotion from the Kroese family the moment Ashley Kroese is taken away in handcuffs.@NC5 pic.twitter.com/r96r5st0KB— Levi Ismail (@LeviAIsmail) February 18, 2022
The jury took less than two hours to deliberate their verdict. While deliberating, the jury asked to take another look at video from the night showing Kroese walk near her car before she began driving.
In reaction to the guilty verdict, Legieza's widow Heather said she felt relieved that she can get a sense of closure.
Watch below: Heather Legieza, widow of Destin Legieza, reacts to the guilty verdict.
Heather said she hopes the lesson learned is not to drink and drive.
"It's so easy now with Uber and Lyft. Just don't even chance it," she said. "It's not worth it. There's too many options available now."
Heather was the state's last witness called during the trial. She spoke for less than five minutes, but the courtroom was full of emotion as she showed a photo of her late husband.
In the early morning hours of June 18, 2020, Kroese is accused of driving drunk on the wrong side of the road and smashing into Officer Legieza's patrol vehicle. Legieza died at the scene at the age of 30.
He is the only officer to die on duty in the Brentwood Police Department's 50-year history.
In reaction to the verdict, the Brentwood Police Department released the following statement:
"Today is a bittersweet day for the members of the Brentwood Police Department. This has been an emotional week for all of us. It is difficult to recount the details of June 18, 2020, and to watch the videos of this tragic incident again. We trust in the criminal justice system and feel that justice has been served. But there are no winners or losers in today’s outcome because nothing will bring Destin Legieza back to us.
Although we take solace in the conclusion of the trial, there will always be a void in our lives without Destin in it.
Please join us in keeping Destin’s family in your thoughts and prayers. His family is our family.
We want to sincerely thank the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Franklin Police Department, the Medical Examiner’s Office, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigators, and the District Attorney’s Office for thoroughly investigating and presenting the evidence in this case which resulted in this verdict. We are truly grateful for their collaborative efforts."
On Friday, attorneys had one more chance to convince the jury whether Kroese was or wasn't drunk when she crashed into Officer Legieza's patrol vehicle.
A TBI forensic scientist who tested Kroese's blood testified and concluded it was double the legal limit.
The defense had been questioning the accuracy of her blood sample, saying she wasn’t that intoxicated. They also claimed that since officers were not there to physically see the blood drawn at the hospital, that there's no way to tell if it had been tampered with.
Prosecutors said even if you disregard the tests, Kroese still showed signs of impairment the moment she stepped in her car.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors asked the jury if someone with clearness of mind drives without headlights, drives in the wrong lane and does not brake before impact.
"You know [Kroese] was twice the legal limit. The only reason [Legieza] is not here, is because she decided to drive," said Assistant District Attorney Carlin Hess.
Defense attorneys argued there was no evidence of bad driving by Kroese.
"Look at that video again. That looks like conscientious driving. Yes, it’s on the wrong side of the road, but this was a road under heavy construction," said defense attorney Lee Ofman.
The Kroese family, as well as their attorneys chose not to speak to the media following the verdict. Kroese's mother was visibly distraught as she leaned over to see her daughter as she was placed in handcuffs. She later helped out of the courtroom by family.