Vehicular homicide prelim hearing stretches into 2 days
At the beginning of a preliminary hearing on Wednesday in the vehicular homicide case of David Paul Cavaliere, attorneys dissected the positioning of evidence at the scene of the fatal Silt crash in March.
The preliminary hearing will be continued to Friday after attorneys found time to question only one witness Wednesday morning.
Cavaliere, 37, faces two counts of vehicular homicide after he was involved in a possibly alcohol-related crash in March that killed two motorcyclists. Investigators say that Cavaliere’s Ford Explorer struck the two oncoming motorcyclists as he made a left turn off of U.S. 6 in Silt.
While the defendant was first arrested on misdemeanor careless driving causing death, District Attorney Jeff Cheney later filed felony vehicular homicide charges.
Nathan Russo, 22, and Eduardo Medrano, 21, both of Rifle, were killed in the crash.
Additionally, the DA has filed a third charge of felony violation of bond conditions after Cavaliere failed to appear for arraignment in early September.
He was rearrested about three weeks later when he turned himself in. He has been in the Garfield County Jail since.
The preliminary hearing concerns only the two vehicular homicide charges, as the judge had not ruled on the additional count until the beginning of the hearing Wednesday.
Attorneys questioned Silt police Sgt. Josh Uhernik, who investigated and was in charge of reconstructing the crash.
He testified that at the conclusion of the crash, the SUV was entirely in the westbound lane, facing into oncoming traffic, with its tires pointed straight, as opposed to turned as would be expected of a turning vehicle.
Uhernik said that he and a Colorado State Patrol trooper concluded that Cavaliere, as the driver of the SUV, was at fault in the crash. A witness driving behind the two motorcycles said that the SUV appeared to slow down approaching the intersection. She described a moment of hesitation, in which the SUV driver appeared uncertain as to whether he could make the turn, said Uhernik.
That witness reported that the motorcyclists were going about the same speed as her, somewhere between 35 and 40 mph in the 35 mph zone.
One of the motorcycles struck the front of the SUV and went under the front bumper, while the second motorcycle struck the SUV’s side. The DA also showed a photo of a skid mark that investigators say was from the motorcycle that struck the SUV’s side, indicating that the motorcyclist attempted to stop and avoid the collision.
Russo, the motorcyclist who hit the front of the SUV, was pronounced dead at the scene, while Medrano died at a Grand Junction hospital. Uhernik testified that neither motorcyclist was wearing a helmet.
The sergeant said that he and the CSP trooper purposefully declined to estimate the speed at which the vehicles were traveling, as they felt there wasn’t enough evidence to give an accurate estimate.
An initial search of the vehicle didn’t turn up anything suspicious. However, when Uhernik did a more thorough search, he found a parking pass for Harvey Gap for the same day.
Cavaliere had told police that he had worked earlier in the day, had gone to eat with his family in Rifle and was on his way back from Rifle at the time of the crash, said Uhernik.
Another Silt officer reported that neither he nor the medical responders smelled alcohol on Cavaliere, nor did they suspect that he was under the influence, according to Uhernik. Additionally officers did not perform a blood draw of breath test on Cavaliere at the scene.
Uhernik said that after Cavaliere had already been released from the scene, officers found a half-drank bottle of whisky stuffed between the driver’s seat and the SUV console. Photos presented in the hearing appeared to show a half-empty bottle of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky.
Initial questioning by Public Defender Molly Owens, though cut short due to time constraints, started with the lighting conditions at the time of the crash.
She focused on the time of sunset, which would have been only a few minutes after the crash, the inherent dangerousness of motorcycles compared with other vehicles and the possibility of the force of the crash altering the position of the SUV and its tires, upon which much of the crash reconstruction is based.
The preliminary hearing will be taken up again on Friday afternoon.
Indicted Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters turned herself in to Pitkin County law enforcement authorities on Thursday after an arrest warrant had been issued.
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