By Steven Mayes, The Oregonian
Matthew Daniel Ingle checked himself into psychiatric wards three times in the 28 days before his fatal encounter with a Eagle Creek mother and daughter.
He knew something was wrong.
Then, on April 25, high on marijuana and in the grip of schizophrenic delusions, Ingle blew through a red light on U.S. 26 west of Sandy and slammed into a car driven by Pamela L. Benson.
Ingle thought aliens or possibly the “Holy Spirit” controlled his 1987 Toyota 4Runner. Both Benson and her 11-year-old daughter, Clarice, were killed.
It was the tragic intersection of two innocent people and a teenager who knew he was losing touch with reality.
On Tuesday, Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Rastetter found Ingle, 18, guilty except for insanity of second-degree manslaughter. He will spend 20 years under the state Psychiatric Security Review Board’s supervision. Ingle will go to the Oregon State Hospital and the board will determine when he might be released or returned to the community.
Members of Benson’s family agreed with the sentence, saying she was a compassionate woman who would want Ingle treated mercifully.
The family “has shown tremendous strength,” said Steven Mygrant, a Clackamas County deputy district attorney. “Their loss was immeasurable” but they were true to Pamela Benson’s wishes, Mygrant said.
Her husband, Jon Benson was less forgiving. “I have no mercy for you. The mercy comes from those you killed,” said Benson in a written statement. “We survivors owe you nothing.”
Kathy Pollock, Jon Benson’s mother, described “a family torn apart in a split second.” She said she wanted Ingle to know something about the people who died at his hands.
Pamela Benson was a devoted wife and mother. A warm and empathetic woman who worked as a speech pathologist and delighted “in teaching children to communicate.”
Clarice was a sweet and generous girl who easily attracted friends. She bubbled with curiosity and creativity. She checked out 2,200 library books over the last four years of her life. She wrote poems. She had a horse named Angel.
Since the deadly crash, Ingle, an Estacada resident, has been in the Clackamas County jail. He takes medication that stifles his delusions and seemed lucid in court.
Ingle cried at times as he listened to Pollock. His mother, who sat in the front row of the courtroom, also wept.
“I’m terribly sorry,” said Ingle, who spoke softly. “I wish there was more I could do.”
On the day of the crash, Ingle had taken prescription anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs. After the collision, Ingle told an investigator that a spaceship might have “locked on” to his steering wheel. A friend told investigators that Ingle took an antacid to give him “white light” that would ward off the devil.
Such thoughts prompted Ingle to check himself into psychiatric hospitals, spending 21 days as a patient in the four weeks before the crash.
“He recognizes the enormity of what happened at his hands,” Ingle’s attorney, Terrance McCauley said. “I suspect Mr. Ingle will be the very best human being he can be … because of what he caused.”