Before an Erath County jury had the chance to deliberate the fate of Ryan Crutsinger, who pleaded guilty Monday to intoxication manslaughter, the prosecution and defense struck a deal.

Facing two to 20 years in prison, Crutsinger agreed to a deal Thursday that will send him to jail for six months followed by 10 years of probation.

The final chapter in the tragic story followed two days of emotional testimony from the families of two young men; one who lost his life in a tragic accident, the other facing a possible prison sentence.

The ordeal began in the first week of Tarleton State University’s 2007 fall semester, when Stephen Cage, a 19-year-old freshman from Conroe, and Ryan Crutsinger, an 18-year-old freshman from Alvord, struck up a friendship.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 11, 2007, Cage, Crutsinger and two friends, left a friend’s apartment after a night of “huffing” from an aerosol can and headed back to the dorms.

Crutsinger was behind the wheel of a black Saab. Cage was in the backseat and was not wearing a seatbelt. As the car traveled down Washington Street and turned left onto Lillian, Crutsinger took another “hit” from the can, then lost consciousness.

Ryan Mason, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, testified that he grabbed the steering wheel and attempted to take control of the car, which was traveling about 50 mph.

“Everyone was yelling,” Mason said.

Moments later, the car smashed into a wall, killing Cage instantly. Crutsinger spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from his injuries.

On Wednesday, the jury heard testimony from Cage’s family, who said his death has been devastating.

On Thursday, Crutsinger’s attorney Bob Glasgow addressed jurors, calling the accident a “double tragedy.”

“There is no doubt that Stephen Cage was a good kid and valuable member of society,” Glasgow said. “Ryan Crutsinger is too.”

A string of friends and family members testified on Crutsinger’s behalf, describing him as trustworthy, hard-working and honest.

His former football coach, Mike Chaney, said he will continue to stand by Crutsinger no matter what the outcome.

“He is an outstanding young man,” Chaney said. “He is the kind of kid I want my kids to be.”

Crustinger also took the stand, sobbing as he apologized to Cage’s family.

“Not a day goes by that I am not remorseful for what I’ve done,” Crutsinger said. “It was an accident, but I take full responsibility.” 

Crutsinger is continuing his studies at Tarleton, but said he has struggled with moving forward.

District Attorney John Terrill said he believes the testimony has helped both families begin the healing process.

He said the Cage family agreed to allow Crutsinger to finish the semester and take final exams before beginning his six-month jail term.

“We believe the correct and just thing to do was to give the defendant an opportunity to pay it forward and make something of his life on Stephen’s behalf — and that’s what he appears to want to do,” Terrill said.