Rifle vehicular homicide case moves closer to trial

Alex Zorn

Cody Christopher

Prosecutors in the vehicular homicide and drunken-driving case against Cody Christopher said the case is moving closer to a trial, and/or a plea resolution, following an Oct. 5 preliminary hearing in the case.

Ninth District Deputy District Attorney Sarah Nordgaard said probable cause was determined by District Judge John Neiley at the evidentiary hearing on the felony charges against Christopher.

Christopher, 40, of Rifle, is reported to have been the driver in a Dec. 29, 2017, wreck north of Rifle that resulted in the death of two men, 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.

The late-night accident occurred on the private Puma Paw Ranch Road north of Rifle where the group was reportedly on a hunting trip.

Nordgaard said Christopher remains out on bond, which was set at $50,000 at a March hearing this year.

At the preliminary hearing last week, the judge found that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence to establish probable cause and the defendant asked for another court appearance.

Christopher is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 28 where he will either decide to enter a not guilty plea and proceed to trial, plead guilty, or possibly take a plea agreement. Nordgaard indicated she did not think a resolution would be reached, and that a trial is likely.

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 also was taken to Grand River Hospital in Rifle after the crash and was treated for minor injuries. None of the four people in the vehicle were wearing a seatbelt at the time.

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