A Waco man whose girlfriend was killed in June 2014 when he crashed his motorcycle after leaving a bar pleaded guilty Monday to criminally negligent homicide.
Jacob Cole Wolf, 30, also known as Jacob Cole Smith, had been charged with intoxication manslaughter, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
However, in a plea bargain with prosecutors, Wolf pleaded guilty to the lesser charge, a state jail felony, in exchange for the state’s recommendation that he be placed on deferred probation.
Wolf was set to stand trial Tuesday in Waco’s 19th State District Court. Judge Ralph Strother accepted Wolf’s plea and ordered probation officers to compile a background report, which the judge will review before sentencing Wolf in September.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors also agreed to dismiss 2019 burglary of a habitation and criminal mischief charges against Wolf, but the judge will consider those counts when deciding if he will accept the plea agreement and during sentencing.
Before accepting the plea, the judge asked if the family of the victim, Stephanie Bell, approved the plea bargain. Prosecutor Christi Hunting Horse told Strother that three of Bell’s family members were present in the courtroom.
The judge also asked why the case had been pending for so long and why it went from a pretrial offer of 15 years in prison on the intoxication manslaughter charge to the recommendation of deferred probation on the state jail felony, which carries a maximum of two years in jail.
In deferred probation cases, there is no final judgment of guilt if a defendant completes the term of probation.
Hunting Horse said prosecutors preparing the case for trial “took a new look at the case.” Also, she said, a witness’ testimony was not going to be what prosecutors initially expected, causing potential problems for the state.
Wolf’s attorneys, Lisa Hoing and Stan Schwieger, deferred comment on the case until after sentencing.
According to reports, Wolf crashed his motorcycle near State Highway 6 and Adams Street about 1 a.m. June 28, 2014, throwing Bell from the bike and causing her to hit her head on a guardrail.
Neither Smith nor Bell was wearing a helmet, according to court records.
A Riesel officer saw Wolf’s motorcycle parked at Oakley’s bar earlier in the afternoon, and Wolf admitted to paramedics that he had been drinking. He was treated at a Waco hospital for a serious leg injury and acknowledged to a nurse that he used methamphetamine earlier in the day, court officials said.