October 23, 2013 in City

Meth a possible factor in fatal pedestrian accident

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Nicole Boyer fights tears as she and son Cruz Lopez, 1, stop Tuesday to attach a balloon to a growing memorial for the family struck by a car near the intersection of Monroe Street and Montgomery Avenue on Friday. Boyer knows the mother and two children involved.
(Full-size photo)

Charges considered

Prosecutors are considering charges of second-degree manslaughter for Sarah Burrows-Gust, who walked into traffic with her two children Friday.

Drugs afflicted a family at the center of a tragic accident that left a kindergartner dead and a mother clinging to life.

Drug tests detected methamphetamine in 25-year-old Sarah Burrows-Gust, who walked in front of oncoming traffic with her two young children Friday night along North Monroe Street, according to court records.

She remains in critical condition at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. Her daughter, 5-year-old Elayna Burrows-Gust, died of her injuries shortly after the accident. A son, 7-year-old Evan Burrows-Gust, is recovering from injuries. Witnesses say the family also had a dog on a leash.

Elayna was a kindergartner at Garfield Elementary School. The school has offered counseling services to her classmates.

A 68-year-old woman crashed her white sedan into the family along a poorly lit section of the road. The driver was traveling about 35 miles per hour when the incident occurred in the middle of a block, according to statements made to investigators. The driver was not intoxicated, and distraction from cellphone use is not suspected.

Court records do not indicate if Sarah Burrows-Gust was high on meth or if the drugs were residual amounts from earlier use. Lab tests conducted at Sacred Heart returned positive for methamphetamine in Burrows-Gust shortly after the accident.

Court records show the mother, as well as her ex-husband and the father of the children, had legal problems tied to drug use.

Her new boyfriend has had drug-related scrapes with the law, too.

She divorced Jesse Gust in 2012 after three years of marriage. A judge awarded her full custody of their children in March 2012 when the divorce was finalized, with the custody order citing Jesse Gust’s drug use as the main reason.

Jesse Gust said in a phone interview Tuesday he had little information about the incident.

“I just want my daughter to have a decent burial,” Gust said. “I’ve got two boys who need me, and I need them.”

A small memorial has sprouted outside a gas station on Monroe near the accident scene.

Notes written in crayon and stuffed animals are scattered about the ground near a tree.

“We will never forget you, XOXOXOXO,” reads one message, next to a drawing of a haloed young girl.

The memorial lies about a half-block from the traffic light at the intersection of Monroe and Montgomery Avenue. An investigating officer questioned Burrows-Gust’s choice of crossing location in documents filed Tuesday.

“Clearly there were better locations for Burrows-Gust to have crossed the street with the two small children and the dog on a leash,” the officer wrote. Intermittent streetlights line that section of road, which neighbors called dangerous, and an incomplete crosswalk is painted on the pavement just south of where the collision took place.

Prosecutors are considering charges of second-degree manslaughter for Burrows-Gust, who is also listed under the alias “Roberts” in court filings.

Investigators list intoxication as a potential cause, though studies show tests for the meth can continue to turn up positive more than 24 hours after ingestion.

Earlier this year, Burrows-Gust filed for a no-contact order to keep Jerry Roberts away from her and her children. She has a child with Roberts, born shortly after she divorced Gust.

Roberts has a criminal history with methamphetamine, according to court records. He was ordered into drug treatment on Oct. 1 stemming from a guilty plea in a 2011 identity theft case. A Child Protective Services agent contacted police Monday, saying they had an open negligence case involving Burrows-Gust and her children that included claims of domestic violence and drug use.

No charges had been filed. Burrows-Gust’s family declined to comment Tuesday night.

Staff writer Kaitlin Gillespie contributed to this report.

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