Jury finds automobile homicide suspect guilty

“There are no winners in a case like this,” Judge Thomas Willmore said right before a guilty verdict was delivered to Casey Sanders Jan. 21, concluding the three-day jury trial.Sanders – who will be sentenced on March 29 for one count alcohol-induced negligent automobile homicide and one count driving on a suspended license – was convicted by jury as the driver in a single-car accident that took his wife’s life more than 500 days ago.Around 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2009, Sanders was driving with his wife Katie Elliott, 24 at the time of the accident, on State Road 142 a mile west of Richmond. The couple had said they were on their way to fish at Hyrum Dam. Traveling 18 miles per hour above the 55 miles per hour speed limit, the car hit a patch of dirt on the side of the road and over corrected, causing the vehicle to spin around off the opposite side of the road, break through a fence and flip onto its roof.Sanders, 26, sustained a concussion, neck and back pain, a 2-inch gash on his head and minor scrapes and bruises. Elliott, partially ejected from the passenger side window with her head pinned under the hood of the car, was pronounced dead minutes after the accident. Neither Sanders nor Elliott were wearing seat belts.According to testimony from law enforcement officials, right after the accident occurred Sanders said he climbed through the open driver’s window and went to the road to get help.Sanders waved down a couple from Trenton passing the area in their car. The two testified in court that they called 911 immediately after learning of the accident, though Sanders had insisted no one call the cops.Witnesses that arrived after the accident testified that along with showing concern that his wife was properly cared for at the scene of the accident, Sanders repeatedly asked if he had killed her.Sanders was taken by ambulance to Logan Regional Hospital and was given an alcohol test an hour after the accident occurred. Test results showed he had a blood alcohol level of .14, almost twice the legal limit. After spending the night in the hospital and being questioned by law enforcement, police officers booked Sanders into Cache County Jail.Attorneys representing Sanders tried to persuade the jury that Elliott was driving and Sanders was ejected from the vehicle’s passenger side window, which broke sometime during the accident. Two car accident reconstruction experts testified during the trial, one called on by the prosecution and one by the defense. The defense’s expert argued that a clean ejection from the vehicle was a possibility in the case, due to the force from bodies within the vehicle being pressed against the passenger side window.The prosecution’s expert argued that while ejection was technically possible, physics suggests it was highly unlikely. He also argued that Sanders’ injuries would likely have been more severe had he been ejected.Sanders’ attorneys also argued that even though Elliott’s head ended up partially ejected from the passenger’s side window, her feet came to rest angled toward the driver’s seat, indicating that she was the driver. Forces caused by the direction and speed of the car would have sent her center of gravity – her upper torso – toward the passenger’s side, causing her head to exit on the passenger’s side and her feet to remain near the driver’s side. Prosecution argued that these same forces as well as the car’s change of direction as it spun and flipped could account for Elliot’s feet landing as they did in the car.Ultimately the jury agreed with the prosecution and decided Sanders was behind the steering wheel the night of the accident. Sanders will be sentenced in front of Judge Willmore in First District Court March 29. – rachel@cvdaily.com

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