Blood on steering wheel matches suspected driver in Rifle vehicular homicide case |

Blood on steering wheel matches suspected driver in Rifle vehicular homicide case

Thomas Phippen
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Three patches of blood found near the driver’s seat of a car that rolled off the road, killing two men and injuring a 10-year-old boy, match the defendant, who is accused of vehicular homicide.

Cody Christopher, 41, allegedly drove while intoxicated, and analysis of blood on the Ford Excursion’s ceiling and steering wheel match his DNA, according to a Colorado Bureau of Investigation technician’s testimony in court Thursday.

The Dec. 29, 2017 crash occurred north of Rifle on Puma Paw Road. Prosecutors say the left front tire began veering toward the edge of the road, struck two rocks about 5 feet apart, and continued until it went over the edge of the road, leading the vehicle to begin rolling 50 feet down a steep embankment.

Two people in the car, Matt Smith, 36, and Trent Johnson, 41, were killed in the crash. Johnson’s son, then 10 years old, was seriously injured.

The defense has not presented a complete argument to the jury, but is expected to begin presenting evidence today.

Christopher’s attorney, Lawson Wills, asserted Wednesday that his client was not drinking while in the car, but did drink after the wreck, and that he wasn’t driving his car at the time of the accident.

The placement of Christopher’s blood near the driver’s seat is not conclusive, Wills indicated.

“One of the big problems with DNA is that no one knows when the blood was placed there,” Wills said in setting up a question.

It could have potentially been there before the crash, during or after, Wills said.

Wills also pointed out that when CBI forensic investigators searched the Excursion for blood in June 2018 — nearly six months after the crash — they collected eight blood samples, but only three were tested.

It’s not yet clear who determined which blood samples should be tested, and which should not.

Wills indicated that Christopher and the 10-year-old had switched from the driver’s side to the passenger side before the wreck, letting Smith and Johnson look out the driver’s side windows to search for coyotes to hunt.

The right side of Puma Paw Road was an embankment, and the left opens into a valley.

Besides Christopher, the only other witness to what happened in the moments before the rollover is the boy, who has consistently told officers, and testified in court, that Christopher was driving.

Christopher said he was driving in a statement written down by a state trooper as Christopher was being treated at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.

Several law enforcement officers say they detected strong alcoholic odors from Christopher.

One Colorado State Patrol trooper testified that Christopher had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and smelled strongly of alcohol in the ambulance that arrived after Christopher and the boy walked from the crash site to a ranch house where Matt Smith lived with his wife.

The prosecution will present the results of several blood alcohol tests Friday.