Injuries from fatal crash may prevent charges for drunk driver

MONTICELLO – Erik H. Yazzie, 32, from Phoenix, Arizona, was charged at the 7th District Court for automobile homicide, a second-degree felony; DUI, a third degree felony; theft by receiving stolen property, improper lane travel, a class C misdemeanor and a class A misdemeanor.

Yazzie was accused of killing another man in a drunk driving crash earlier this year. However, the San Juan County prosecutors say they may not be able to pursue the criminal charges against Yazzie because of the serious injuries he suffered in the crash himself.

According to his charging documents, Yazzie is responsible for the death of Filemon “Phil” Montoya of Sweetwater, Texas, in the crash that took place on 21 April. He left a restaurant without paying the bill, stole a car and was “fleeing from Moab” when, about 15 miles south of town on state Route 191, he crashed in a sport utility vehicle. The driver of the SUV Montoya, 57, died in the crash.

At the time of the accident, Yazzie’s blood alcohol level was 0.21, nearly three times that of the legal limit in Utah of 0.08. He was taken to a Salt Lake hospital. A warrant was issued for his arrest on demand of the prosecutors by Judge Lyle Anderson. The prosecutors feared that Yazzie would escape from town once he was released from the hospital.

Desiree Yazzie, Yazzie’s ex-wife, is currently looking after Yazzie. She informed the prosecutors she is arranging a neurological exam for her ex-husband to examine his current condition. The reports were provided to the county attorney by Desiree.

San Juan County Attorney Craig Halls wrote in a motion to recall a $15,000 warrant for Yazzie’s arrest writing, “The current reports that have been shared with us indicate that (Yazzie’s) memory is impaired, his problem-solving skills are impaired and his safety awareness is impaired.” He further wrote, “It is the position of the county attorney’s office that (Yazzie) not be arrested and brought back to San Juan County on a warrant until we can get further information with regard to his neurological function.”

Desiree has informed the prosecutors that her ex-husband requires constant care and he “cannot stand on his own” and is “unable to take care of bodily functions on his own.” The same was mentioned in Halls report. The arrest warrant was recalled by Anderson. The issue will now be revisited in court after six months at which point Hall hopes the case may be moved forward or the charges may be dismissed.

If Yazzie’s health condition improves and he is able to understand the charges against him and help his attorney to build his defense, his condition would render him incompetent to stand trial.

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