Details of driver’s alleged drug use emerge in vehicular homicide trial
In a virtual courtroom plagued by audio problems, the trial of Jessica Stahl continued into its second day on Tuesday, May 23, with witness testimony.
Audio carried over the live video feed was spotty, and there were times when the web host acting on behalf of the court was on mute. The technical glitches made it difficult at times for online spectators to hear what was happening in the trial.
One spectator messaged the court in a chat saying, “The host is on mute, we cannot hear anything being said.”
This trial is taking place in Douglas County Court nearly a year after the death of 25-year-old Steamboat Springs resident Lacey Lewis. The jury trial for Jessica Stahl, who’s accused of vehicular homicide, started Monday, May 22.
The fatal collision occurred during the early morning hours of June 16, 2022, in Parker when Stahl’s vehicle hit Lewis, who was a pedestrian.
In addition to facing a felony vehicular homicide charge, Stahl also faces a second felony charge of fleeing the scene of an accident that involved a death and a misdemeanor charge of fleeing the scene of an accident. Stahl is also accused of child abuse because her 8-year-old daughter was in the car at the time of the accident.
In court Tuesday, Jessica Stahl’s mother was called to testify on her daughter’s drug use the day before the incident. Asked if she had suspected her daughter had been under the influence of drugs that day, the mother answered, “Absolutely not.”
Stahl’s mother went on to share that she has worked with drug and alcohol offenders for the past 10 years and knows what being under the influence looks like, especially when it comes to her own daughter.
Prosecutors questioned family members about Stahl’s drug use on the day and the night of June 15, as merely hours later, she would be involved in the fatal car-pedestrian collision.
The time of the accident was approximately 2:04 a.m. Parker police responded to Parker Road and Cottonwood Drive after receiving reports of a car accident. The intersection was undergoing construction at the time.
The arrest affidavit shows officers arrived on scene to find Lewis in a pool of her own blood. Lewis’ boyfriend was also present on scene. Officer checked Lewis for a pulse, but could not find one.
Officers that were present at the scene testified in court that information they collected from witnesses indicated Lewis was crossing the street in a crosswalk and was 75% of the way through it when she was struck by the vehicle. Lewis had been walking home from a bar in the area, and there were spectators present, including construction workers, at the time of the incident.
According to the arrest affidavit, a construction worker pointed officers in the direction of the vehicle they saw strike Lewis. The vehicle was pulled over on the side of the road, and officers began to approach it. As officers approached the vehicle, later determined to belong to Stahl, the driver drove off.
The affidavit describes Stahl yelling at officers through her car window, claiming she was driving away because she was just looking for a place to turn around. According to the affidavit, an officer read Stahl her Miranda rights and she waived them. When explaining the situation to officers, she reportedly said she had not been speeding and also said she had been aware and alert while driving when suddenly a “loud crash” occurred.
The affidavit also says Stahl informed officers that she was taking the drug Suboxone to help her overcome a heroin addiction. She said she had not used it for several months, but the affidavit says she later redacted that statement and said it had been four days since she had last used Suboxone.
Stahl was transported to a medical facility for a drug test, and officers were informed that a blood test could not be performed due to the state of Stahl’s veins after what the nurses deemed as prolonged drug use. The affidavit stated that officers noted track-marks on Stahl’s body that demonstrated drug use.
In court on Tuesday, the person who analyzed Stahl’s drug test testified that her urine test showed codeine, hydrocodone, methamphetamine and fentanyl among the drugs in Stahl’s system. A urine drug test is not considered to be as accurate as a blood test for determining recent drug use.
The trial is scheduled to continue at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday.
Kit Geary is the county, public safety and education reporter. To reach her, call 970-871-4229 or email her at kgeary@SteamboatPilot.com.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.