A Deschutes County judge rebuked a defendant in a pending manslaughter case for failing to abide by the terms of her conditional release from jail Wednesday, calling her excuses “stunning.”
In the end, Samantha Toews, 26, was allowed to remain free from custody while awaiting trial with no increase in bail. Judge Wells Ashby ruled that though Toews’ conduct violated her release agreement, it didn’t sufficiently threaten the safety of the community to justify sending her to jail ahead of trial.
“Ms. Toews, you are charged by the state with killing someone because you were using a controlled substance,” Ashby said. “I am not going to play games with you about what the terms of your release mean. What you did was, you interpreted the court’s conditions the way you wanted to.”
Ashby asked if the rules were now clear to Toews.
“Yes, sir,” she replied.
Prosecutors came to court Wednesday morning to ask to revoke Toews’ release for violating multiple conditions Ashby imposed on her at her January arraignment.
Toews was the driver in a March 2018 crash on Powell Butte Highway east of Bend that killed her boyfriend, Jason L. House.
She was not charged in the incident until January, when the state crime lab released test results alleging she was high on methamphetamine at the time.
Toews is charged with second-degree manslaughter, fourth-degree assault and DUI. She has yet to enter a plea, and no trial date is set.
Prosecutors said Wednesday that Toews had been attempting to rekindle a relationship with an ex-boyfriend, staying with him at the Holiday Motel, when she was supposed to be living at her mother’s house, per the terms of her release agreement. That man, Andrew Tegland, was arrested at his motel room over the weekend for allegedly violating the conditions of his own post-prison release.
Toews was also accused of consuming alcohol, breaking curfew and associating with a drug user who wasn’t abiding by his post-prison release (Tegland).
“This is the exact kind of thinking that puts someone behind the wheel and causes a crash that hurts or kills somebody,” Ashby said. “You are not like anybody else. Yes, you’re presumed innocent, but your situation is different.”
This matter began when Tegland’s mother tipped off investigators her son was back associating with Toews. The tip also led to increased scrutiny on Tegland and likely led to his arrest, as well.
On March 5, 2018, Toews was driving a 2006 Hyundai Tucson west on Powell Butte Highway with House in the passenger’s seat and one of her young daughters in the back.
As she approached the intersection with McGrath Road, the road curved slightly to the right. According to police investigators, Toews lost control and crossed into the oncoming lane and rolled her SUV multiple times.
House, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle. Toews and her daughter were buckled in.
First responders transported all three to St. Charles Bend for treatment. House was declared dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Investigators determined excessive speed and failing to negotiate a turn were the main causes of the wreck.
For nine months, Toews was not charged in the incident.
When blood test results eventually came back from the Oregon State Police lab, local prosecutors sought an indictment alleging meth was a contributing factor in the wreck.
Toews was arraigned in January and booked and fingerprinted at the Deschutes County jail. After about an hour, she posted $10,000, or 10 percent of her $100,000 bail, and was released.
Wednesday’s hearing began with Toews partially admitting to several of the allegations, including that she spent several nights at a hotel. But her attorney, Aaron Brenneman, argued his client misunderstood the meaning of “reside.” Beyond that, he argued her conduct didn’t threaten the safety of the community.
On Wednesday, Toews’ mother, Jennifer Kidd, took the witness stand in her daughter’s defense. She testified she and Toews had discussed it and agreed her release agreement allowed her to stay the night at a hotel, so long as she didn’t move there.
Toews decided she’d try to see if things would work again with Tegland, Kidd said.
Prosecutor Kyle Pearson pressed Kidd on cross-examination.
He asked if she was aware of the prohibition against drinking alcohol. She said she was.
He asked why then, did she allow Toews to order sangria at Red Robin.
“It was not necessarily a thought process to drink,” she said.
While reading his decision, Ashby called the comment, “nothing short of stunning.”
“The rules could not be clearer,” he said.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, email@example.com