March 14, 2014 in City

16-year-old pleads not guilty to killing classmates in crash


The 16-year-old boy accused of vehicular homicide in the deaths of two classmates during an October reckless drive pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this week.

Preston Maher was criminally charged for the deaths of McKenzie Mott and Josie Freier, both 15, in January. Detectives say Maher left a party the night of Oct. 5 to take what witnesses called the “Ponderosa Jump,” a stretch of road in Spokane Valley that allowed motorists traveling at high speeds to fly airborne for a brief period.

Court documents indicate Maher’s gold Infiniti was traveling close to 70 miles per hour when it left the street near 5200 Bates Road and struck a tree. The posted speed limit there is 25 miles per hour, according to investigators.

Both girls were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash and died at the scene. Maher was transported to Sacred Heart Medical Center, where he recovered from his injuries.

Maher had received his driver’s license the day before the collision, according to court records. He turned 16 the week prior to the incident.

Prosecutors elected to try Maher as a juvenile because of his lack of criminal history and school records. An adjudicatory hearing in the matter is tentatively scheduled for August, where Maher faces the possibility of juvenile detention until he turns 21, according to court records.

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