Drunken wrong-way driver receives 40-year prison sentence

A memorial along Highway 395 on Oct. 18, 2022, at the spot where Fallon Montanucci was killed on April 23.

A memorial along Highway 395 on Oct. 18, 2022, at the spot where Fallon Montanucci was killed on April 23.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

Fallon Montanucci’s last act early on the morning of April 23, just seconds before she was killed in a head-on collision, was to swerve right and save her sister Avalon.

“Fallon steered the car and took the brunt of the accident, saving her little sister’s life,” Prosecutor Chelsea Mazza said at the Monday sentencing of the man responsible for the collision.

Wrong-way drunken driver Matthew Joseph Premo, 27, was sentenced to 16-40 years in prison in Douglas County District Court.

Montanucci’s mother, Paula, said that just as Premo would have to live with what he had done, so would she and her family.

“They were seven minutes from home,” she said. “My daughter was killed in such a heinous way. My loss hasn’t even begun. Avalon lost her soulmate. We’ll be living the same hell as you, Matt.”

Avalon Montanucci was more direct.

“No matter what, he will live his life in jail, but that would be much better than what I’d do,” Avalon said. “She was my best friend and I’ve lost her forever. How do I love someone when I know they could be gone?”

Premo admitted to felony charges of driving a vehicle while being under the influence of alcohol resulting in death and substantial bodily harm in the collision.

Attorney Maria Pence said he pleaded guilty without any negotiations to take responsibility for what he’d done.

“I would do anything to take this back,” he said. “I never meant to hurt anyone. I must live with this guilt and shame.”

He said he would spend his life working to prevent anything like this again.

Pence presented four character witnesses on Premo’s behalf, including wife Amanda, father Michael, a longtime friend and a general contractor, who’d used Premo’s concrete company.

A Carson High graduate, Premo had his first driving under the influence conviction in 2013 at age 18. Pence said that when he was convicted of another DUI three years later, he checked himself into a treatment center New Frontiers and began going to Alcoholics Anonymous.

In the intervening years, he got married, had children and built a successful company, but let his sobriety slip, Pence said.

“Both these families are loved and respected in this community,” Pence said.

Efforts to sell the company have fallen through, but his wife is selling off equipment.

Wife Amanda said the pair grew up in the same church.

“There isn’t a single day I haven’t thought about you,” she said on Monday.

Mazza said investigators found Amanda texted Premo twice that night telling him not to drive.

Those two DUIs gave Premo a chance to learn from his previous actions, but he didn’t, District Judge Tod Young said in giving him the maximum sentence.

Premo was ordered to complete victim impact panels in both previous convictions where families of people who’d been hurt or killed by drunk drivers tell their stories.

That didn’t stop him from reportedly getting black-out drunk and driving three miles up Highway 395 in the wrong direction at speeds of 90-100 mph.

Sgt. John Lenz was the first deputy on the scene of the collision that he described as the worst he’d seen in his career.

While the word haunted was used to describe the effect of the collision on first responders, Lenz had a more nuanced take.

“Not haunted, as much as it resonates with us every time we go past the location,” he said. “It was the worst scene of my career.”

Mazza said that Premo had a .197 blood alcohol content when he was tested at Renown Regional Medical Center.

Investigators extrapolated that his blood alcohol would have been at .264, more than three times the legal limit at the time of the collision.

Lenz testified that Premo still had a beer clenched between his legs behind the wheel of the rented silver Ford-150 he was driving.

Mazza played a 911 call where the first person on scene said he was terrified by the extent of the wreckage on the highway.

A motorist, who managed to get out of Premo’s way just before the collision, said the pickup was going so fast his doors rattled before he saw the explosion behind him, Mazza recounted.

She said the Nevada Highway Patrol determined that Premo didn’t step on the brakes until 4 seconds before the collision.

Premo has been in custody since May 10 after he was released from the hospital with his own injuries.


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