Loved ones share grief, memories of Jenna Perrelle at open hearing

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — “You can’t replace a child ever, I don’t know how anybody can deal with that,” said Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt shortly after the sentencing in a fatal crash case Thursday morning.

The crash took place on February 14 and involved several juveniles, including 16-year-old Bryce Switzer-Couthen, who was driving the vehicle, and 17-year-old Jenna Perrelle. 

Perrelle died from injuries sustained in the wreck, and on Thursday, Switzer-Couthen received his sentencing in the case. He will serve 300 days at the Indiana Department of Correction facility.

But while the morning hearing was for Switzer-Couthen’s sentencing, the conversation centered around Perrelle, who loved ones say was a ‘beautiful young woman.’

A family friend, a cousin, and the mother of the other girl injured in the wreck all spoke to the loss of Perrelle. Perrelle’s cousin spoke directly to Switzer-Couthen, telling him she hopes he has learned that “life can change in a matter of 10 minutes.” 

“It’s very heart wrenching, I mean we have a job to do, but still you feel the pain that’s felt by others,” said Modesitt. 

Modesitt worked with the Perrelle family and ultimately they agreed to a plea agreement brought forth by Switzer-Couthen’s attorney, upon which the defendant would admit to a count of reckless homicide and a count of criminal recklessness. 

“As part of his admission, the party has agreed to 300 days at the Indiana Department of Correction followed by probation until the age of 19. Additionally, his driving privileges are suspended for four years,” said Modesitt. 

In addition to the other terms of his sentencing, Switzer-Couthen is under a no-contact order with the Perrelle family. 

According to Modesitt, the Perrelles came to realize that the plea agreement was a way to avoid the emotions of trial and bring some closure to the tragedy. 

A statement read on behalf of the Perrelles said in part that this is a “nightmare” and that “our family will forever be incomplete.”

The statement went on to share a memory of Perrelle’s visit to a college campus, where she made such an impact on the tour guide that he personally sent a card to her family when he learned of her passing.  

Modesitt says he’s been working with Senator Jon Ford and other prosecutors to create a heavier penalty for homicide cases.

“When a life is taken, we think and actually we argue that it should at least be treated as a Level 4 which would give a range of sentence, that would mean 2-12 years and give the legal system, the judges, more discretion as far as there’s more of a high end to this kind of offense, when a life is taken because obviously you can’t bring the life back,” said Modesitt. 

Modesitt added that he echoes the sentiments of the mourning group. 

“Our heart goes out to all of them, we’re sorry that it happened, I wish we didn’t have to deal with it, I wish they didn’t have to deal with it.”

The prosecutor’s office filed a waiver to adult court, but ultimately, the case was moved forward in juvenile court due to the family’s need for a continuance of the healing process.

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