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Ex-school official heading to prison

Yelverton gets six years in prison for running down a homeless man
By: Laura Newell Telegraph staff writer
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Jeffrey Crayton Yelverton, the recently terminated food services director for the local school district, will be serving six years and eight months in state prison for the felony hit-and-run death of a homeless man. Yelverton allegedly stepped on the gas pedal in fear for his life after making a wrong turn in Sacramento and being approached by a group of men in March 2010. Yelverton had been seen driving repeatedly at excessive speeds in front of the Loaves and Fishes homeless shelter, said Sacramento District Attorney’s Office officials. In March 2010, Yelverton sped by several patrons of the shelter when three Loaves and Fishes workers attempted to stop him. The men included Thomas William “Cowboy Bill” Deollos, a homeless Sacramento Loaves and Fishes volunteer, and two paid monitors for the agency. According to Sacramento District Attorney’s Office officials, instead of stopping, Yelverton drove directly toward Deollos and struck him with his car. Yelverton then drove to the Arden Fair mall, where he attempted to report the incident as an attempted robbery in which he used self-defense. Deollos was severely injured and died two months later. On June 22, Yelverton, 55, director of food services for Folsom Cordova Unified School District, was convicted by jury of voluntary manslaughter and felony hit and run. He was booked into Sacramento County Jail after the conviction. Yelverton was reportedly sentenced Friday to six years and eight months in state prison for his voluntary manslaughter and hit-and-run convictions in the death of Deollos. Debbie Bettencourt, Folsom Cordova Unified School District superintendent, testified for Yelverton as a character witness. Bettencourt told the Telegraph that Yelverton worked for the district for five years and supervised more than 100 employees. Bettencourt said Yelverton was officially terminated from his district position on June 30 after the conviction. “As soon as the conviction came down, he elected to resign rather than be terminated,” Bettencourt said. She said the incident was shocking for her and district employees to hear. “He was a good employee,” Bettencourt said. “He was a valued employee.” She said there was no concern about his work performance whatsoever, and he handled personnel matters very well. “This is a very sad situation for Crayton as well as for the family of Cowboy Bill,” Bettencourt said. “This was very unlike Crayton. He never had any other legal issues in his past. This is just a very tragic incident.” Bettencourt said she felt “compelled” to speak as a character witness on Yelverton’s behalf. “He was a stellar employee, and this incident was so out of character from the Crayton we know and have worked with for the past five years, we were compelled to tell the jury about the other side of Crayton,” Bettencourt said. Bettencourt said the day of the accident Yelverton dropped his two daughters off at church in Sacramento and went to a local casino during his lunch to play poker. She said he then left the casino and got confused in downtown Sacramento and went down a wrong street. Bettencourt said he became fearful when he thought a group of people came toward his car with weapons. The perceived weapons were later found to be walkie-talkies. She said he then hit the gas and drove away, but hit Deollos. “This was an accident. It wasn’t purposeful,” Bettencourt said. “He feared for his life and tried to get away from the group of people.” A pretrial brief said Yelverton had marijuana in his system at the time of the crash. Yelverton was not convicted of having drugs in his system. “They thought he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but nothing was ever proven,” Bettencourt said. “There were never any charges of drugs because it was not proven. This was an act done out of fear.” Some locals are back and forth on the situation. “I don’t feel I can judge him (Yelverton) because I don’t know all the facts and I wasn’t in the courtroom,” said Cindy Montana, 55, of Folsom. “But he did kill a man unprovoked, so he should probably serve some time for that.” She said it is difficult to say how she or anyone else would react in that situation. “If I pictured myself in a car with three strangers approaching me, I don’t know how I would react,” Montana said. “On the other hand, it really makes me wonder about the other side of the story. According to the two Loaves and Fishes workers’ side, why was he driving fast in that area in the first place?” It is unclear if his resignation, rather than being fired, will allow him to collect any public employee pension he would otherwise be eligible.