Man who killed El Paso detective in DUI crash sentenced to 19 years

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: John Savage was sentenced to 19 years in prison on Wednesday, for the DUI-crash death of El Paso Police Department detective Richard B. Allbee Jr.

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – After more than two-and-a-half years since a head-on collision took the life of El Paso Police Department detective Richard B Allbee Jr., 51, the man who caused the collision has been sentenced to prison. 

On Wednesday, in front of a courtroom laden with family and friends of the victim, Graham County Superior Court Judge Pro Tem Travis L. Ragland sentenced John Savage, 52, of Globe, to 11 years for manslaughter and 8 years for aggravated assault – to be served consecutively for a total of 19 years of incarceration. Savage received the manslaughter and aggravated assault charge, in part, because his blood showed he was under the influence of alcohol when his vehicle crashed into Allbee’s.

The prosecution was handled by Graham County Chief Deputy County Attorney C. Alan Perkins, and Savage was represented by attorney Channen Day. Savage signed a plea agreement on July 11, in which three counts of aggravated DUI and an aggravated assault count were dismissed in exchange for his guilty plea of manslaughter and aggravated assault.  

On Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, Allbee and his wife, Norma Allbee, were traveling from El Paso to Mesa and were westbound in their Chevy Silverado pickup truck on U.S. Highway 70 when an eastbound white, Ford F-250 pickup truck driven by Savage crossed the centerline. The trucks collided head-on at the Bylas Bridge just west of Bylas. A witness traveling eastbound behind Savage corroborated that Savage’s vehicle had drifted into oncoming traffic and that the Chevy had no time to avoid the collision. Detectives also later downloaded a data recorder from the Chevy truck that showed the same thing. 

Contributed File Photo/Courtesy Byron Bolen: El Paso Detective Richard B. Allbee Jr. was pronounced deceased at the scene of a head-on collision on Feb. 9, 2020, between his white Chevy truck and a Ford truck driven by John Savage, 51. Savage was believed to have driven while impaired and caused the crash. He was recently sentenced to 19 years in prison for manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Richard Allbee, who was a 19-year veteran with the El Paso Police Department and had also served in the Texas Army National Guard, was declared deceased at the scene. Norma Allbee and Savage were both airlifted to Banner – University Medical Center Tucson for treatment of their injuries. Norma, who was a passenger in the Chevy truck, suffered two broken arms and broken ribs. Savage suffered a pelvic fracture, dislocated left hip, and a spinal fracture.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Byron Bolen: The eastbound Ford driven by John Savage ended up on its top. The prosecution of Savage was delayed due to his medical issues stemming from the crash.

Prior to Savage being flown from the scene, DPS troopers noticed he appeared impaired by alcohol, and an ice chest with cans of Michelob Ultra beer was found near the Ford as well as various full and empty cans scattered near the vehicle. A sample of blood taken from Savage at the hospital indicated a blood/alcohol content of .124.

Jon Johnson File Video/Gila Herald

In bringing Allbee’s body back to New Mexico in 2020, local first responders, including firefighters and EMS workers joined in a procession to the Safford Regional Airport. Once at the airport, members of the Texas Honor Guard transported Allbee from the funeral hearse into a Texas State Trooper plane with assistance from Arizona DPS officers. The plane then taxied past the envoy of officers and took off to fly Allbee back home.