Evidence delays slow progress in Rifle vehicular homicide case

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Cody Christopher

Delays in obtaining evidence from police investigators in the vehicular homicide and drunken-driving case against Cody Christopher related to a Dec. 29, 2017, wreck north of Rifle that resulted in two men being killed have led to another continuance.

Defense attorney Lawson Wills expressed frustration at an arraignment hearing in Garfield County District Court Thursday, saying he will ask the court to take action if there’s still no progress when Christopher is back in court on May 10.

That could include asking the court to suppress certain evidence, or possibly even ask for the case to be dismissed if evidence, including a report on Christopher’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash, is still lacking, Wills said.

Christopher, 40, of Rifle, faces several felony charges stemming from the late-night 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. Johnson’s 10-year-old son, Rylan, was also seriously injured in the wreck.

Christopher remains free on $50,000 bond.

He is accused of being drunk at the time the 2003 Ford sport utility vehicle he was driving shortly after midnight on Dec. 29 went over an embankment and rolled. Christopher was also taken to Grand River Hospital in Rifle after the crash and treated for minor injuries.

Johnson and Smith were both ejected from the vehicle, and were pronounced dead at the scene. 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 northwest of Rifle Gap Reservoir near the Rifle Correctional Facility.

Investigators said there was evidence of alcohol involved at the crash scene, including several opened and unopened beer cans, and that Christopher allegedly admitted afterward to consuming beer prior to the crash. The vehicle ended up in a creek, and, according to an affidavit in the case, it wasn’t until about 3 a.m. that Smith was found beneath the vehicle.

Colorado State Patrol officials said Christopher’s breath had a strong odor of alcohol, and he had slurred speech and bloodshot, watery eyes.

Christopher reportedly admitted to drinking two beers prior to the crash, but he refused to allow a voluntary blood draw at Grand River Hospital. He later submitted to blood draws after a search warrant was issued by a judge later that same day.

The affidavit also notes that Smith’s wife said Christopher carried the boy into her kitchen after the accident, trying to find help, and that he smelled of alcohol. State Patrol officials also said they interviewed a man who indicated that he had been drinking with the men at a cabin earlier the night of the accident, but that he didn’t know how much they had.


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