A Waco man whose girlfriend was killed in June 2014 when he crashed his motorcycle after leaving a bar in Riesel was placed on deferred probation Tuesday.
Judge Thomas West of Waco’s 19th State District Court granted Jacob Cole Wolf’s request for deferred probation, fined him $1,000, ordered him to wear an ankle monitor for at least 180 days and prohibited him from having contact with the family of the victim in his case.
Wolf, 32, an apprentice plumber, initially pleaded guilty in July 2019 in the traffic death of Stephanie Bell after prosecutors agreed to reduce the charge from intoxication manslaughter, a second degree felony, to criminally negligent homicide, and recommend he be placed on deferred probation.
Former Judge Ralph Strother, who retired in January, rejected the plea bargain in September 2019 and Wolf withdrew his guilty plea. After West replaced Strother, prosecutors offered the same plea agreement to Wolf, and he pleaded guilty again in July.
Lisa Hoing, Wolf’s attorney, said the case was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in administrations in the court and the district attorney’s office. She said the case also was hampered by a poor police investigation, which she said delayed a realization by the state that “it was not the case they thought it was.”
“Cole feels responsible for Stephanie’s death. He always has,” Hoing said. “But it really was just a horrible accident, and we have been trying for the past seven years to get the state to understand that. I think they finally understood that, and that is why we are here today. I think that justice has occurred, but nobody can bring Stephanie back and he has to live with that the rest of his life.”
In deferred probation cases, there is no final judgment of guilt if a defendant completes the term of probation. Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in a state jail.
According to reports, Wolf hit something in the roadway and crashed his motorcycle in Riesel near State Highway 6 and Adams Street about 1 a.m. June 28, 2014, throwing the 31-year-old Bell from the bike. Authorities said neither Wolf nor Bell was wearing a helmet and Bell hit her head on a guardrail.
A Riesel officer saw Wolf’s motorcycle parked at Oakley’s bar earlier in the evening, and Wolf admitted to paramedics that he had been drinking, officials previously reported. He was treated at a Waco hospital for a serious leg injury and told a nurse he used methamphetamine earlier in the day, court officials said.
Speaking on behalf of the victim’s family, Tammie Greenwood, Bell’s aunt, said in a victim-impact statement that her family lost a beloved, “beautiful soul,” the mother of two daughters and a son, in what she described as a “horrible, but avoidable accident.”
“In order to heal from your tragic choices, we will have to forgive you,” Greenwood said. “For some, it will take longer than others.”
In defense testimony, Doran Belknap, a probation officer from Hamilton County, said he first met Wolf in 2005 when Belknap, then a juvenile probation officer in McLennan County, supervised Wolf after he was detained on aggravated assault and harassment charges.
He said they later became friends and Wolf worked for his business for a time clearing debris around Lake Whitney. He said Wolf is a hard working, natural leader who always was respectful. He said Wolf stood out as exceptional among those he supervised on probation during a 32-year career, adding that Wolf truly was remorseful for the incident that caused Bell’s death.
Robert Lain, a plumber who works with Wolf at Rabroker Air Conditioning and Plumbing, also testified that Wolf is a dependable, hard worker and a “good guy.”