August 13, 2005 in Idaho

Crash suspect bound for trial

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The 22-year-old Spokane man accused of killing two people in a head-on collision July 23 said he didn’t have money to buy medication to prevent the seizure that prosecutors think caused the accident.

That’s what Kevin T. Culp told Idaho State Police Trooper Ron Sutton the day after the collision that killed Henrietta E. Lewis, 40, and Tonia M. Lewis, 30, both of Spokane Valley. Injured in the crash were four other passengers in the minivan driven by Henrietta Lewis, including a 9-month-old baby, Ebin Lewis, who remains at Sacred Heart Medical Center in serious condition.

Culp appeared in court Friday to hear the evidence – including Sutton’s testimony – to support the two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter against him. Magistrate Judge Robert Burton found sufficient evidence to support the felony manslaughter charges, and Culp remains in the Kootenai County Jail, with bail set at $250,000.

He allegedly was driving his girlfriend’s sport utility vehicle to Spokane to refill his prescription when the accident occurred at 12:45 p.m. about four miles east of the Washington state line on Interstate 90.

“Kevin hadn’t had a job since 2002,” his mother said after the hearing. “The only way he got his medication was through me or his girlfriend.”

Court documents show that Culp was on food stamps. His mother, who declined to give her name, said she had asked her son to let her know a week before he ran out of pills, so she could help him get the prescription refilled.

He called this time after he ran out, and she was going to borrow money to pay for his prescription, she said.

On July 23, it had been two or three days since Culp had last taken the medication that controls his seizures. His girlfriend, Amanda Gillaspy, told the court she had seen him have about 11 seizures in the last 11 months.

Culp dropped Gillaspy off at the retirement home where she works and continued in her Suzuki Vitara SUV on Interstate 90 toward Spokane, presumably to fill his prescription.

Culp, however, does not have a driver’s license.

“When he decided to drive that Vitara that day, that was nothing less than a roulette game,” Chief Deputy Prosecutor Lansing Haynes said in his argument that the act constituted gross negligence. “Driving that car, he could at any time relapse into seizure.”

Witness and paramedic Melvin “Bob” Hamilton was one of the first people on the scene of the crash. Hamilton testified that he was driving west on I-90 behind Culp when he saw the Vitara veer left across the median into the eastbound lanes of I-90.

“I saw no brake lights, no attempt to correct this obvious mistake,” he said. “If anything, he was picking up speed.”

Hamilton said he saw a tremendous impact in the eastbound lanes: “The force I saw those vehicles strike was really something. I saw cars come up in the air and smoke.”

Hamilton said Culp was initially unconscious and, when he came to, was disoriented and confused, unaware he’d been in a car accident.

While Haynes did not provide any medical evidence to show that Culp actually had a seizure at the time of the accident, Burton nonetheless said the facts that he had not been on medication for a period of days, that he had no license, and that he knew he could have a seizure all justified the charges against him.

Culp also faces a first-degree manslaughter charge in Spokane County, stemming from an accidental gunshot in 2004. In his trial on that charge earlier this year, the jury deadlocked. He’s scheduled to be retried there on Oct. 24.

•In an unrelated vehicular manslaughter case in Boundary County, Luke Peterson’s preliminary hearing on three counts of vehicular manslaughter has been postponed until Sept. 23.

Peterson is accused of drunken driving July 29 when his pickup slammed into a Dodge Neon on U.S. Highway 95 just south of Bonners Ferry. Killed in that accident were Tabitha Saunders, Bart Bartron and their 2-year-old daughter, Kjestine Saunders. Their 2-month-old baby, Lyssa Saunders, survived and is still being treated for head injuries at Sacred Heart Medical Center.


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