Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Manslaughter defendant sent to jail

Stevens gets 9 months, driverís license suspended for 10 years

Express Staff Writer

Cody William Stevens awaits sentencing Monday on a conviction of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. Seated at his right is public defender Douglas Werth. Photo by Willy Cook

The man who caused the death almost a year ago of a well-known Hailey woman is now behind bars, but questions still linger about Cody William Stevens' mental condition on the day of the fatal crash.

"There's just not really an explanation for what occurred," Blaine County Magistrate Court Judge R. Ted Israel said Monday in sentencing Stevens to nine months in jail, placing him on two years' probation and suspending his driver's license for 10 years.

Israel said he'd carefully reviewed Stevens' medical records but could find no reason within them to explain why Stevens was driving erratically or why he might have "blacked out" in four separate accidents that day.

"Every accident was a blackout to you," Israel told Stevens, suggesting further that Stevens was "picking and choosing" what he wanted to remember.

Stevens, 29, was originally charged with a felony but pleaded guilty in January to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the March 10 death of 53-year-old Bertilia Lyn Redfern, a legal secretary for the Roark Law Firm in Hailey.

The accident occurred at about 12:20 p.m. when Stevens, northbound in Hailey on state Highway 75 in a Chevrolet Silverado rental vehicle, suddenly swerved into the southbound lane about a mile north of the intersection of Countryside Boulevard. Redfern, driving south in a small Subaru, swerved to avoid a collision, lost control of her vehicle and was struck first by another car and then by a GMC truck. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Several minutes after the crash, Stevens lost control of the Silverado in downtown Hailey and crashed into the side of the Cari's Hair Care building on Main Street.

He had been involved in two other accidents that day, the first shortly after 7 a.m. when he clipped the mirror of a vehicle he was passing on Highway 75 near Shoshone and the second at about 9:40 a.m. when he lost control of his 2001 Dodge Ram pickup and hit a tree south of Bellevue.

"I don't really remember a lot from there on," Stevens told Israel during close questioning from the judge. "It's fuzzy, the whole day, and I really don't understand it.

"There is no forgiveness for it, I know. It is my fault. I caused it."

Stevens told the court that he is an electrician at Idaho Milk Products in Jerome, is separated from his wife and is living with his grandparents in Richfield. According to Twin Falls County court records, Stevens' wife filed for divorce on Dec. 7, and the divorce, uncontested, was granted on Jan. 26.

Hailey attorney Douglas Werth, assigned to defend Stevens, said in court that Stevens is a U.S. Navy veteran and served tours of duty in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He said Stevens currently serves in the U.S. Army Reserves and is anxious to resume his military career full-time.

Werth said Stevens suffered concussions in motorcycle accidents in 2006 and 2007 and has a history of seizures.

Werth noted that tests for drugs or alcohol in Stevens' blood the day of the accidents came back negative except for small amounts of anti-anxiety and anti-seizure medications within the prescribed amounts.

Blaine County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback said a plea agreement was negotiated with Stevens after blood tests came back negative.

Fredback said that regardless of the cause, Stevens should have realized that something was wrong with him on the day of the accidents.

"This is a strange and bizarre set of facts that is happening," Fredback said. "Really, we'll never know what was going on with Mr. Stevens that morning. What we do know, that regardless of the reasons, Mr. Stevens was in no condition to drive and he knew he was in no condition to drive."

Fredback read letters from several of Redfern's friends and family members who attested to the loss they've experienced from her death.

"That was the day our world turned upside down," wrote Redfern's brother Irv Baldwin, of Idaho City. "That was the day I drove to my mother's house and told her her only daughter was dead."

Tracy Young, of Middleton, testified that Redfern was "her dearest friend—a woman closer than a sister."

"It is often unbearable to watch how her husband, Bob, has been devastated," Young said.

Robert Redfern broke down in tears several times when he took the stand to testify.

"It was a special love to be shared," the victim's husband said. "I was the luckiest man in the world to be married to her for 36 years. We were soul mates, and we knew it."

Speaking directly to Stevens, Robert Redfern said: "You have gave me a life sentence of loneliness and sorrow because I married her forever."

Judge Israel said the case warranted a maximum sentence of one year in jail, but by pronouncing that sentence he would not be able to place Stevens on probation.

"I do not feel it appropriate for you to just walk away after serving one year," Israel said.

The judge said he will consider allowing Stevens to drive under strict limitations at the end of his probationary period, but only if he's cleared by a complete medical evaluation.

Robert Redfern told the Idaho Mountain Express following the hearing that he is satisfied with the sentence.

"The important thing to me is to take away his license and get him off the road so this doesn't happen to other people," he said.

Terry Smith:

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