The Bend driver accused of being impaired when she killed a cyclist in a head-on collision 13 months ago — Shantel Lynn Witt — had 11 different drugs in her system, including three she didn’t have prescriptions for, according to new court filings in the case.
And one of the drugs, Xanax, was prescribed to her dog, Lola.
“It appears the defendant had been taking her dog’s medication,” prosecutor Kari Hathorn said.
Witt’s highly anticipated eight-day trial on charges including first-degree manslaughter begins Tuesday. Prosecutors with the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office allege Witt, 42, was driving under the influence of a combination of prescribed and nonprescribed medications when she hit and killed local cyclist Marika Stone.
Monday in court, a late attempt by Witt’s lawyers to delay the trial was shot down, and key evidence was revealed as a flurry of last-minute requests from attorneys was heard.
At around 3:15 p.m. Dec. 30, 2017, Stone was cycling west on Dodds Road east of Bend, riding single-file behind fellow cyclists Carrie Carney and Bruce Rogers.
Witt was driving a 2002 GMC Sierra pickup in the opposite direction. Four miles east of U.S. Highway 20, she crossed the double-yellow center line into the oncoming lane, according to police. Carney and Rogers were able to avoid the truck, but Witt struck Stone, killing her instantly.
Rogers called 911 at 3:21 p.m. Sgt. Kent VanderKamp of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office was the first officer on scene, becoming the primary investigator of the crash.
VanderKamp, one of the agency’s certified drug-recognition experts, testified at a hearing last month he suspected Witt of driving under the influence shortly after making contact with her, based on her constricted pupils and “apparent intoxication.”
Witt’s blood was tested and found to contain the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, the muscle relaxer Soma and meprobamate, which is sold under the brands Miltown and Equanil.
Witt’s urine test showed 11 different drugs in her system, according to a recent court filing by the prosecution. In addition to the three drugs also allegedly found in her blood, the urine contained hydrocodone, Klonopin, prescription antidepressant Paxil, the prescription muscle relaxer Flexeril, the prescription antidepressant Desyrel and others.
Attorneys for Witt succeeded Monday in convincing Judge A. Michael Adler to exclude a piece of evidence — a bottle found Saturday in Witt’s pickup, which has been held in evidence by the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.
The bottle contained Xanax prescribed for Witt’s dog. The prescription had been filled two days before the deadly collision, and 11 of 20 pills were missing, according to court proceedings.
The bottle was not among the items originally recovered by police from the truck, and so for 13 months, the bottle sat untouched. But Saturday afternoon, Sgt. VanderKamp got a warrant to search the truck to retrieve the Xanax bottle.
Prosecutors argued that though they knew Xanax had been detected in Witt’s system, they didn’t know it had been prescribed for the dog until the defense sent over veterinary records, which it did to comply with the pretrial procedure known as discovery.
Prosecutor Andrew Steiner told the judge the state was prepared to argue that by getting a Xanax prescription for her dog and taking the pills, Witt satisfied the “reckless” component of the crime of manslaughter.
“They were hoping the state wouldn’t catch on to the existence of this evidence,” Steiner said.
Regardless, Adler ruled the pill bottle will not be among the more than 100 exhibits the state plans to enter into evidence during the trial.
Also Monday, Witt filed paperwork agreeing to plead guilty to one of the six charges in her indictment — possession of a controlled substance.
She waived her right to a jury trial, so the case will be decided by a judge.
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