Bond condition change denied in Rifle vehicular homicide case
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
At a bond hearing Thursday for a Rifle man accused of drinking and driving in a late-night December 2017 accident that claimed the lives of two men, 9th Judicial District Court Judge John F. Neiley declined any changes to bond conditions.
Cody Christopher, 40, faces felony charges following a Dec. 29, 2017, car accident on the private Puma Paw Ranch Road north of Rifle that claimed the lives of Matthew Smith, 36, of Rifle, and Trent Johnson, 41, of Glenwood Springs, after they were ejected from the 2003 Ford sport utility vehicle Christopher was allegedly driving while drunk. Johnson’s 10-year-old son was also seriously injured in the wreck.
Christopher remains free on $50,000 bond.
Defense Attorney Lawson Wills argued Thursday that his client had not had a sip of alcohol since the incident occurred, and had been in compliance with every aspect of his bond conditions for several months now. According to Lawson, at this point, those conditions, including regular alcohol testing, have become not only unnecessary but disruptive to his client’s business.
The defense also argued that, although the 9th District Attorney’s office calls Christopher’s case an important one, they have not treated it as such. He pointed out how the defense still had yet to receive the 911 tape from the night the incident occurred.
However, Deputy District Attorney Anthony Hershey pointed out how two people were dead as a result of the crash.
Judge Neiley, while appreciative of Christopher’s continued compliance, ultimately ruled that the Rifle man must, still, fully comply with his bond requirements and denied the defense’s motion.
An arraignment hearing was set for Aug. 9.
Christopher is accused of being drunk when his vehicle went over an embankment and rolled into a creek, resulting in the death of both Smith and Johnson, who were ejected and pronounced dead at the scene several hours later. It wasn’t until about 3 a.m. that Smith was found beneath the vehicle, according to court records.
Christopher was also taken to Grand River Hospital in Rifle after the crash and treated for minor injuries. None of the four people in the vehicle were wearing a seatbelt at the time.
The group was reportedly headed out on a hunting trip when the crash occurred on the private ranch road, which is an extension of Garfield County Road 219 north of the Rifle Correctional Facility.
Investigators said evidence at the crash scene included several opened and unopened beer cans, and that Christopher allegedly admitted afterward to consuming beer prior to the crash.
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After relaxing the lease restrictions at the city-owned Marolt Ranch affordable housing complex, the units are all spoken for this winter.