Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Fatal U.S. 93 accidents are linked, sheriff says

Twin Falls woman held for vehicular homicide

Express Staff Writer

Police allege that Cheryl Wise, 34, of Twin Falls, who is accused of killing two Bellevue residents in a car crash July 23, was seen at this roadside cross for Francis E. Gereau, 28, of Carey, shortly before the head-on collision. Police contend that the July 23 accident is linked to a similar two-car accident that killed Gereau and the driver of an oncoming car Wednesday, July 20, and that Gereau and Wise had a romantic relationship. Express photo by Matt Furber

The Blaine County Sheriff's Department announced this week that it believes there is a clear link between two devastating car accidents that occurred three days apart in late July near Carey.

Cheryl Wise, 34, of Twin Falls, was arrested this week on three felony charges, including two for vehicular manslaughter, as she was released from St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. The arrest was made in connection with a fatal two-car accident on U.S. Highway 93, some eight miles east of Carey, that occurred Saturday, July 23, involving seven members of the Francisco Rojas-Ramos family of Bellevue.

Rojas-Ramos, 37, and his 9-year-old son, Julian Rojas, were killed when Rojas-Ramos, driving a 2003 Chevrolet Suburban, was unable to avoid Wise, who was driving a 2000 Chevrolet Blazer, police said. Wise had crossed into the oncoming eastbound lane of the two-lane highway, according to police.

Rojas-Ramos' wife, Dolores Rojas, and her other children, Francisco, Javier, Fabien and Elizabeth were all transported to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center, where they were treated for minor injuries and released on Sunday, July 24. Wise was flown by helicopter to St. Alphonsus in critical condition from the scene of the accident about halfway between the Carey-Kimama Desert Road and Goodale's Cutoff, the gateway to Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve.

Speaking to reporters last week about the accident on Wednesday, July 27, Sheriff Walt Femling said he believes that the accident was linked to a previous two-car accident on the same stretch of highway that occurred three days earlier, but at the time he declined to elaborate without further investigation.

On Wednesday, July 20, two drivers, Francis E. Gereau, 28, of Carey, and Michael L. Mora Jr., 41, of Idaho Falls, were killed just past the Carey-Kimama Desert Road in a head-on collision. That accident about two miles east of the Wise-Rojas-Ramos accident is marked with a memorial cross dedicated by loved ones to the memory of Gereau.

The Wise-Rojas-Ramos accident occurred the day after the funeral for Gereau at the LDS Church in Carey.

Police now contend that Wise and Gereau had a romantic relationship and that Wise had attended Gereau's funeral. Femling said this week that a week of investigation including numerous interviews with witnesses place Wise at the roadside cross for Gereau moments before the Wise-Rojas-Ramos accident.

"What was puzzling to me ... is that we found several pamphlets (from) the Francis Gereau funeral at the scene of the (Wise) accident," Femling said in a press conference Monday. "This was not an accident. Cheryl Wise had an ongoing romantic relationship with Gereau. It appears that this was intentional ... that she was reacting to the accident of Gereau."

Femling said the police investigation shows that Wise left her home in Twin Falls Saturday, July 23, and purchased alcohol en route to Carey. He added that review of cell phone conversations and eyewitness reports place Wise later at the cross for Gereau. Femling said Wise made an out-of-state cell phone call while she stood at the monument mourning Gereau.

"Our intent is to show that she left (the Gereau-Mora) accident scene ... (and) drove head-on into the Rojas' vehicle, killing two people."

Femling said Wise's husband filed a missing person's report for his wife with the Twin Falls Sheriff's Office an hour after the accident near Carey occurred.

"We were calling him while he was at the sheriff's office," Femling said.

In addition to the two vehicular manslaughter charges, Wise is also being charged with aggravated DUI for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

She is being held in the Blaine County Jail on a $500,000 bond.

"There's a lot of connections to this case," Femling said. "This is a tragic, tragic accident."

At the Ramos funeral Thursday, July 28, at Saint Charles Catholic Church in Hailey, scores of mourners escorted the family to the interment of the father and son at the Hailey Cemetery.

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