Friday, March 13, 2009

Twin Falls man charged in death of Hailey woman

Police report suspect was involved in four vehicle accidents in one day

Express Staff Writer

Cody William Stevens, a 29-year-old Twin Falls man, appeared in court by video hookup to the Blaine County jail to be formally charged with vehicular homicide.

Police report that a Twin Falls man was involved Tuesday in four vehicle accidents, one of them in south Hailey that killed a Hailey legal secretary.

Twenty-nine-year-old Cody William Stevens, a former Richfield resident, was charged with vehicular manslaughter on Wednesday for allegedly causing the death of 53-year-old Bertilia Lyn Redfern, a Hailey resident who worked at the Roark Law Firm.

"Everybody at my office and in the legal community is already missing her," said firm attorney Douglas Nelson.

Police allege that Stevens was high on prescription muscle relaxers when the fatal crash occurred. The criminal complaint against him lists an alternative charge of aggravated DUI. Both crimes are felonies and punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling said Stevens did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol when he crashed his vehicle into a tree south of Bellevue at about 9:40 a.m. on Tuesday. Hailey police reported that Stevens was "groggy and nonresponsive" after the fatal crash about three hours later.

Stevens remained incarcerated Thursday in the Blaine County jail on $75,000 bond. Blaine County Magistrate Court Judge R. Ted Israel set the bond high because Stevens has a prior DUI conviction.

Memorial services for Redfern were being arranged through Wood River Chapel but had not been scheduled as of Thursday.

Accident Rampage

According to police reports, Stevens' alleged accident rampage started Tuesday morning in Shoshone.

Hailey police Lt. Steve England wrote in a probable cause affidavit that Stevens got off work at 6 a.m. after working a 12-hour shift at Idaho Milk Products in Jerome. Stevens then set out in his green 2001 Dodge Ram pickup to visit friends in the Wood River Valley.

England wrote that Stevens was first involved in a mirror-to-mirror minor accident in Shoshone and was questioned by Shoshone police. The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office reported that Stevens was also reported as a reckless driver at 7:23 a.m.

Accident number two occurred at 9:41 a.m. about a half-mile south of Bellevue on state Highway 75. Sheriff Femling said Stevens was southbound when he ran off the road and struck a tree.

"He said he swerved to miss a deer," Femling said. "We did talk to him and there was no evidence of intoxication."

Stevens declined treatment when a Wood River Fire and Rescue ambulance showed up at the scene. His vehicle was totaled and Stevens caught a ride into Hailey with a tow truck operator. Once in Hailey, he rented a gray or silver 2009 Chevrolet Silverado.

"The paramedics talked to him and said he was fine," Femling said. "We have statements from the tow truck driver that he was fine."

Hailey police reported that Stevens then drove to Valley Auto Body in Bellevue to check on his Dodge Ram. He was returning to Hailey when the fatal crash occurred around 12:20 p.m.

Police reported that Stevens was northbound when he suddenly swerved into the southbound lane on Highway 75 just north of the Countryside Boulevard traffic signal. Redfern was southbound in a 2002 red Subaru.

"The red Subaru then swerves right into the dirt," said Hailey Assistant Police Chief Dave Stellers. "At this point we believe she overcorrects, gets back in the road on the northbound traffic lane and collides with a 2003 GMC truck towing a trailer. The main point of impact was on the passenger side of her vehicle."

Blaine County Coroner Russell Mikel pronounced Redfern dead about 20 minutes later. He said she died from "massive trauma."

The driver of the GMC, identified as Glenn Johnston, no age available, of Clayton, was treated for a broken wrist at St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center.

A few minutes after the fatal crash, Stevens, driving north on Main Street in Hailey, allegedly swerved across the southbound lane and crashed into the Cari's Hair Care building, causing the Silverado to flip on its side.

England wrote that Stevens didn't appear to be injured, but was detained and taken to the Hailey police office for questioning. He was then taken to St. Luke's for a blood draw, and then returned to the police office.

He was taken again to St. Luke's by ambulance because he was "passing out," Stellers said, adding that Stevens was allowed to sleep for about five hours before being returned to the Hailey police office.

"From our first contact with Mr. Stevens, he was groggy and nonresponsive," Stellers said.

England wrote that Stevens failed two of three field sobriety tests and that an unlabeled bottle containing 34 Baclofen muscle relaxing pills was found in the rented Silverado.

Court Appearance

Stevens' initial court appearance was held Wednesday afternoon via video hookup to the Blaine County jail. Roark Law Firm attorneys Nelson and Kevin Cassidy attended the hearing and were clearly shaken by the loss of their secretary.

"As far as a person and an employee, she was absolutely pleasant to be around," Nelson said prior to the hearing. "She was extremely professional in what she did. I got nothing but compliments from other attorneys and the courts."

Members of Stevens' family, including his grandparents and wife, also attended the hearing. There was an audible groan heard from the family group when Judge Israel set bond at $75,000.

Israel ordered that if bond is posted, Stevens will not be allowed to drive, must not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs and must submit to random drug testing.

The judge followed the recommendation of Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Angela Nelson, who said Stevens has a prior DUI conviction.

According to Twin Falls County court records, Stevens was convicted there in 2006 of misdemeanor DUI. He was sentenced to one day in jail, placed on 12 months probation and fined $387.50.

Israel also denied Stevens' application for a public defender after Stevens told him that he and his wife each earn about $2,400 a month.

"You'll have to hire your own attorney," the judge said.

Terry Smith:

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