Christopher tells his story of fatal rollover accident
Cody Christopher took multiple drinks from a bottle of whiskey after the rollover accident that killed two of his friends, which accounts for the strong alcohol odor that police noticed when they interviewed him, according to his own testimony.
Christopher is charged with vehicular homicide for allegedly drinking and driving the Ford Excursion that killed his two friends Matt Smith, then 41, and Trent Johnson, then 36. Johnson’s son, then 10 years old, was severely injured in the crash.
Christopher testified Friday during the fourth day of his trial that he took the drinks in the home of Matt and Lyndsay Smith on Puma Paw Ranch after hiking back from the scene of the wreck as paramedics and other law enforcement were assisting the 10-year-old.
“I was in so much pain, I didn’t want to wait anymore. I just started chugging whiskey,” Christopher said.
“The alcohol consumption, ladies and gentlemen, that we have spent three days talking about, occurred after the accident — an accident in which Cody Christopher wasn’t even driving,” defense attorney Lawson Wills said during his opening statement Friday.
Christopher’s blood alcohol content was 0.13 when it was drawn for legal purposes at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, about five hours or more after the wreck, a Colorado Bureau of Investigation analyst testified Friday.
The analyst estimated that Christopher’s blood alcohol would have been 0.237; nearly three times the legal definition for impairment, at 12:15 a.m., around the time Christopher was at the ranch house after the wreck.
At that level of intoxication, the defense asserts, it would have been impossible for Christopher to carry the 10-year-old part way back to the ranch house.
An expert witness for the defense said extrapolating blood alcohol levels back is subject to error, especially in hypothermic conditions and traumatic experiences, when metabolism slows.
Supporting the prosecution’s extrapolated blood alcohol is a vial of blood drawn at Grand River Hospital in Rifle at 2:35 a.m.
That vial arrived at CBI’s office more than a week after the incident in a bag with six other vials and loose blood, raising the questions about contamination and possible fermentation.
As the district attorneys and defense teams switched tables after the prosecution rested, nearly 20 people who had been watching the trial moved to the other side of the courtroom, to sit on Christopher’s side.
“You’re going to hear a lot about the Rifle community, and the way they stick together,” Wills said during his opening argument.
Prosecutors say Christopher was driving in part because Christopher told law enforcement in the hospital that he had been driving. Christopher cannot clearly remember whether he was driving at the time of the wreck, but does remember that several in the group switched places.
He also testified that his last clear memory of the crash itself is “floating up” from the front passenger seat and slamming into the driver’s side.
Christopher said he does clearly remember that he had only drank one and a half beers in the day leading up to the crash, and that was hours before the rollover.
Christopher remembers waking up partially in the creek, outside the vehicle, the night of the wreck. He remembers entering the overturned car several times, including turning off the headlights, and rinsing his head with whiskey from a bottle that he didn’t know was in the vehicle.
Christopher said he attempted CPR on one of his friends. He eventually located the 10-year-old, the other survivor of the crash, even though he felt himself slipping in and out of consciousness.
Deputy district attorney Sarah Nordgaard pressed Christopher on what she called his “selective memory.”
Christopher did suffer some kind of head injury, and said it took weeks, sometimes months, for certain memories to return.
The trial will resume Monday.
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