Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ellington sentenced to prison

Jonathan Wade Ellington is seen during his sentencing hearing Monday at the Kootenai County Courthouse in Coeur d'Alene. 
 (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer

The man convicted of second-degree murder in the New Year’s Day road rage case that killed an Athol hairdresser and mother of three will spend up to 25 years in prison.

Jonathan Wade Ellington, 45, showed no emotion as 1st District Judge John Luster sentenced him Monday to 25 years for murder and 15 years on each of two aggravated battery charges, to be served concurrently. He’ll serve at least 12 years before he’s eligible for parole.

Ellington was convicted in September after a bizarre car chase on New Year’s Day 2006 that ended in Ellington’s running over 41-year-old Vonette Larsen with his Chevy Blazer as her daughters and husband watched. At some point prior to the murder, Larsen’s husband, Joel, fired shots at Ellington’s car.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her, or a night I don’t close my eyes and see the horrific sight of her soaking in her own puddle of blood,” daughter Jovon Larsen, who was 21 at the time of the incident, told the court.

She and her grandmother, Bobbie DeBower, Vonette Larsen’s mother, were the only family members to read statements. The rest of the Larsen family looked on.

Ellington addressed the court, several times calling the case “mind-boggling.”

“The way the whole thing took place, I still can’t believe it,” he said. “I don’t understand this – I never will.”

Ellington’s attorney has argued he was trying to flee from the Larsens when Vonette was killed.

“I would never in any way, shape or form try to kill another person,” he continued.

Ellington’s fiancée, Ann Thomas, said his conviction will be appealed.

“Eventually, it’ll get to a real court,” Thomas said.

Deputy Prosecutor Art Verharen listed Ellington’s criminal history, which included seven assault charges in two states over a 25-year-period.

Verharen and the Larsens said Ellington’s lack of emotion was a sign he did not feel remorse.

Jovon Larsen mentioned Ellington’s “dark, empty eyes” and said he smirked during her and her sister’s testimony at the trial when she spoke of the tremendous effects her mother’s death has had on the family.

“There’s no way in which my life hasn’t changed,” she said.

Family members snap at each other over little things, she said, a reminder of the key role her mother played. The injuries she sustained from the incident forced her to get surgery and undergo months of physical therapy, she said.

A single mother, Jovon Larsen said she isn’t able to work full time and is saddled with medical bills and other costs that have forced her to live paycheck to paycheck. But the loss of her mother hurts the worst, she said.

“Almost a year later, I still wait for the phone to ring and it to be my mom,” Jovon Larsen said. “She was more than my mom, she was my best friend.”

Clinical psychologist Daniel Hayes testified that he believed Ellington suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing a shooting in Arizona about 20 years ago, which may have been aggravated at the sight of Joel Larsen’s gun and the sound of it firing. Hayes said he felt Ellington was in “flight mode” instead of fight mode during the altercation and was trying to flee when Larsen was run over.

But Luster said he thought Ellington wanted to fight when he got out of his vehicle and confronted the Larsen daughters, which resulted in the aggravated battery charges. The daughters then called their parents, who pursued Ellington. After catching up with him, Vonette Larsen got out of her vehicle and was run over.

Luster said he did not think Ellington intentionally killed Larsen, but cited Ellington’s criminal history and refusal to take responsibility for what happened.

“I think, in some respects, you were a time bomb waiting to go off,” Luster told Ellington.