A Hayden mother can’t remember the car crash that killed her 14-year-old son, but the boy’s father, who was driving another car on Kathleen Avenue in Coeur d’Alene at the time, remembers hearing it.
Both will be witnesses in a trial that starts Tuesday of two young men police say caused the collision by racing their cars down the busy street.
The October 2006 crash that killed Isaac Norris and nearly killed his mother, Glenda, could send the two men to prison on vehicular manslaughter charges, which carry maximum 10-year sentences.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in a joint trial for Daniel W. Cutting, now 20, and Dominick F. Salois, 21, that will examine what led to the moment that has rocked three families.
The defendants’ fathers – Jon Cutting is a doctor, and Milo Salois manages a restaurant – hired lawyers to fight the felony charges, and the case has been delayed repeatedly by court motions.
In one, argued in April 2007, Fred Loats, Salois’ lawyer, and Michael Verbillis, Cutting’s former lawyer, unsuccessfully sought to have the charges dismissed.
While Jim Siebe now represents Cutting, the motions filed in Kootenai County outline a defense that has persisted through the case and could resurface in this week’s trial: Norris pulled out in front of Salois and Cutting and the most the state can prove is excessive speed. It cannot prove that Cutting and Salois caused the boy’s death when Salois’ 2006 Mustang struck Norris’ 1987 Chevy Caprice, the lawyers said.
Loats and Siebe didn’t return calls seeking comment, and the Norris family declined an interview after a pretrial hearing Friday in front of 1st District Judge Fred Gibler, who will preside over the trial. Gibler rejected a motion by the defense to prohibit courtroom references to the Norrises as victims or alleged victims, calling the suggestion “really insulting to the jury.”
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Marty Raap could call as many as 30 witnesses to testify. First will be Glenda Norris, he said in court Friday. She doesn’t remember the crash.
“She woke up maybe 10 days later in Seattle,” Raap said.
Norris suffered several fractures to her pelvis. She nearly died at Kootenai Medical Center before a helicopter took her to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Raap said. Glenda Norris’ husband, Craig, heard the crash as he drove westbound on Kathleen ahead of his wife, Raap said.
Glenda Norris was attempting to turn left from Howard Street onto Kathleen as Salois and Cutting approached, according to an Idaho State Police report. Cutting, driving in a 2005 Subaru Impreza, swerved to avoid her and rolled his car as Salois’ Mustang smashed into the right side of Norris’ Caprice. Isaac Norris died instantly, according to the coroner’s report.
Salois and Cutting weren’t injured, nor was Cutting’s then-girlfriend, Stephanie Ohnstad. Ohnstad told police that, moments before the crash, Salois had revved his engine and Cutting revved his engine in response before accelerating to keep up, according to minutes from a December 2006 court hearing.
Neither Glenda nor Isaac Norris was wearing a seat belt, according to ISP, and toxicology reports showed none of the three drivers had drugs or alcohol in their systems.
Witnesses have offered various estimates on how fast Salois and Cutting were driving and have differed on whether they were racing. The ISP recommended charges of speeding and racing on a public highway, but the prosecutor’s office decided to pursue vehicular manslaughter charges only.
ISP Cpl. George Phillips said the Mustang hit Norris’ car while driving 73 mph, according to minutes from an October 2006 hearing. One witness estimated 80 to 90 mph. Another said 45 to 50 mph. One more said 60 to 65 mph. The speed limit on that stretch of Kathleen Avenue was 35 mph.
After the crash, the city of Coeur d’Alene created a 25 mph school zone in front of the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy and installed lights that flash when students are likely to be crossing the street.