Lansing man pleads guilty to 2019 vehicular homicide

Published 3:48 pm Monday, June 28, 2021

The driver of a Ford F-350 involved in a fatal accident on May 9, 2019, has pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide.

Christopher Robert Stewart, 33, of Lansing pleaded guilty to felony criminal vehicular homicide – operate motor vehicle under the influence of any amount of a schedule 1 or 2 controlled substance – as part of a plea agreement reached on Monday in Mower County District Court.

Charges of felony criminal vehicular homicide – operate vehicle in a negligent manner while under the influence of a controlled substance, misdemeanor DWI – operate motor vehicle – body contains and amount of schedule I/II drugs – not marijuana, misdemeanor fourth-degree DWI – under the influence of a controlled substance, and misdemeanor driving after revocation will be dismissed at the sentencing. 

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A plea has not been submitted on a charge of felony fifth-degree drugs – possess schedule 1,2,3,4 – not a small amount of marijuana.

According to an amended criminal complaint, law enforcement was dispatched to the scene of a two-vehicle accident at about 5:17 p.m. on May 9, 2019, at the intersection of County Roads 28 and 29 in Austin Township. Upon arrival, law enforcement observed a 2001 Ford F-350 and a 1998 Dodge Caravan in the west ditch of County Road 29. The Dodge’s driver, 89-year-old William Richard Regner, was deceased. Stewart was pointed out to law enforcement as the driver of the Ford.

A deputy asked to see Stewart’s driver’s license and the Ford’s owner, who was also present at the scene, said Stewart did not have one. When the deputy asked Stewart what happened, the Ford’s driver spoke for him and said that Regner “blew the stop sign.” 

Stewart told the deputy he was traveling north on County Road 29 at about “48-52” miles per hour and that Regner never stopped at the stop sign. A witness, however, reported that he was driving at about 50 miles per hour and that the Ford “flew past” him at a high rate of speed. Stewart denied the witness’s statement and said the witness was “going like 35 miles per hour.” 

The deputy noticed that Stewart had red sores on his face, was making fast body movements and had dilated pupils that were slow to react to light. Stewart was made to perform five field sobriety tests and failed three. He initially told the deputy he had smoked methamphetamine about a month prior and had more recently used marijuana, but then changed his story and said he had taken an Adderall. 

When the deputy said he believed Stewart had used drugs within the previous two days, Stewart nodded in agreement.

The deputy was granted a search warrant for a sample of Stewart’s blood, which was drawn and sent to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension laboratory for analysis. The results showed the presence of amphetamine, methamphetamine and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

Law enforcement executed a search warrant on the Ford and found three cartridges containing suspected THC oil, a small amount of marijuana, and Stewart’s cell phone. A search warrant was then conducted on Stewart’s phone, which contained several text messages pertaining to marijuana and THC oil as well as a photograph of THC oil products. 

An analysis of one of the three cartridges seized from the Ford reflected 0.569 grams of tetrahydrocannabinol. 

A review of Stewart’s criminal record shows prior convictions for theft and multiple traffic violations.

Stewart will be sentenced on Oct. 8.