Rifle drunken driving homicide case moves to trial

Cody Christopher

Cody Christopher, the defendant in a late December 2017 vehicular homicide and drunken-driving case who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, is set to go to trial next April.

Christopher appeared in Garfield District Court Thursday on bond, set at $50,000 in March, to enter the plea. The jury trial is scheduled for April 22-29 in Glenwood Springs before District Judge John Neiley.

Christopher, 40, is charged with vehicular homicide as the alleged driver in a Dec. 29, 2017, car crash north of Rifle where two men were killed. Matthew Smith, 36, of Rifle and Trent Johnson, 41, of Glenwood Springs were killed as a result of the crash, and Johnson’s 10-year-old son, Rylan, was injured.

At an October hearing, Judge Neiley determined that the evidence was sufficient to establish probable cause and continue the felony charges against Christopher.

The wreck occurred along Puma Paw Ranch Road, a private extension of Garfield County Road 219 northwest of Rifle Gap Reservoir near the Rifle Correctional Facility. The group was reportedly embarking on a hunting trip.

None of the passengers in the 2003 Ford Excursion were wearing seatbelts, according to a State Patrol affidavit. The car rolled down an embankment, and Smith and Johnson were both ejected from the vehicle.

After the rollover wreck, Christopher allegedly admitted to consuming two beers before getting in the car. Investigators say they found evidence that alcohol was involved in the crash, according to the affidavit.

Christopher reportedly refused a voluntary blood draw, which would have determined blood-alcohol levels when he was taken to Grand River Hospital, but submitted to blood draws after a search warrant was issued by a judge later that same day.

With the guilty plea, Christopher’s case will next go through a motions hearing in March 2019, where each side may move to suppress evidence and the defendant may present evidence that his constitutional rights were violated. A pre-trial readiness conference is set for early April.

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