Friday, April 24, 2009

Manslaughter case proceeds to district court

Judge rules probable cause exists to continue prosecution

Express Staff Writer

Cody William Stevens

A judge has ruled that a man charged with vehicular manslaughter was likely under the influence of drugs or alcohol or was grossly negligent in causing the death last month of a Hailey woman.

Magistrate Court Judge R. Ted Israel made his ruling Wednesday after a daylong preliminary hearing for Cody William Stevens, a 28-year-old Twin Falls man. The case will now proceed to 5th District Court.

"The state's burden today is to only show probable cause," Israel said. "The state has shown more likely than not that drugs or alcohol were involved."

The judge further ruled that the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office had shown probable cause that Stevens operated a vehicle in a "grossly negligent" manner and caused the death on March 10 of Bertilia Lyn Redfern, a 53-year-old Hailey woman and a legal secretary at the Roark Law Firm.

Defense attorney Douglas Werth argued that "it could be as easily explained as a seizure or medical condition as it could a driving under the influence."

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Angela Nelson countered that no evidence was presented to show that Stevens was suffering from a medical condition on the day of the accident. She said Hailey police officers testified that Stevens was incoherent or unable to stay awake during interviews after the accident.

According to police reports, Stevens was involved in four accidents on the day Redfern was killed. The first occurred about 7 a.m. near Shoshone when Stevens, driving his green 2001 Dodge Ram pickup, allegedly scraped mirrors with another driver. Stevens was reportedly on his way to the Wood River Valley to visit friends after working a 12-hour shift at Idaho Milk Products in Jerome.

The second accident occurred shortly before 10 a.m. about a half-mile south of Bellevue when Stevens lost control of his vehicle and hit a tree. Stevens told police that he was trying to avoid a deer. He was checked by a Wood River Fire and Rescue ambulance crew but not transported. Instead, he rode with a tow truck driver to Valley Auto Body in Bellevue where his vehicle was taken.

Stevens was then given a ride by the tow truck driver to Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Hailey, where he rented a grayish-silver 2009 Chevrolet Silverado. He then returned to Valley Auto Body to retrieve items from his totaled Dodge Ram.

The accident that claimed Redfern's life occurred around 12:20 p.m. on state Highway 75 near the airport tower south of Hailey. Stevens, driving north, allegedly veered into the southbound lane, causing Redfern to lose control of her vehicle. Redfern's car, a red 2002 Subaru, first collided with another vehicle and then was struck by a 2003 GMC pickup driven by Glenn Johnson of Clayton.

A few minutes later, Stevens allegedly lost control of the Silverado in downtown Hailey and crashed into the Cari's Hair Care building. He was checked again by an ambulance crew but not transported to the hospital.

Hailey police Lt. Steve England testified at Wednesday's hearing that Stevens initially seemed OK but became incoherent later when being questioned at the police station.

"I had to wake him up a few times," England said. "He was nodding off a lot."

Enterprise Manager Gabe Dessert testified that he talked with Stevens for about 25 minutes.

"I looked at Cody straight in the eye," Dessert said. "I asked him if he was OK and he said he was fine. He seemed OK. He wasn't slurring his worlds. I do watch out for things like that."

Terry Smith:

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