A truck driver’s felony vehicular homicide charge has been reversed following a review by the Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The decision was reversed on December 16th for a wreck that occurred in November of 2019.
According to KPVI News, truck driver Tonya Hightower struck and killed motorist Vidal Madera in his sedan on Interstate 80 after crossing into the opposite lane of traffic and eventually leaving the roadway.
Police who responded to the scene say that Hightower did not realize she had struck a vehicle until officers told her, but claim that she did not appear impaired at the time of the incident. Investigators also point out that tire tracks from the rig show that Hightower did not brake or even move the steering wheel as the truck left its lane and eventually, the roadway.
Upon further investigation, driving logs show that Hightower, along with her husband and driving partner, had been taking turns sleeping and driving in one or two hour intervals leading up to the accident. Records also show that Hightower had only been driving for 11 minutes at the time of the wreck.
Additionally, state troopers testify that Hightower told them that she had taken both hydrocodone and promethazine during their immediate investigation, but later said she had taken the pills after the accident. Blood tests revealed no signs of controlled substances in her system.
“Though Ms. Hightower’s resting patterns may have been uncommon and could indicate “fatigue or tiredness,” they could just as possibly indicate she was alert following her rest,” the Wyoming Supreme Court wrote in its ruling, reversing her previous felony conviction of aggravated homicide by vehicle.
“Because recklessness under (Wyoming law) does not logically spring from the State’s evidence or the inference Ms. Hightower fell asleep at the wheel, the State established a mere suspicion of Ms. Hightower’s guilt.”
Hightower has been held at the Wyoming Women’s Center since receiving her 10-20 year sentence in November of 2019.
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