Charges dropped in 2008 fatality

Charges have been dropped against a Lovell man who was on trial for the death of a Powell woman who was killed in a single-vehicle accident in 2008.

Prosecutors alleged that Steven McLaughlin was driving a 1987 Buick LeSabre while under the influence of alcohol when his only passenger, Jenny James, 25, of Powell, was thrown from the vehicle and killed in the early morning hours of Sept. 25, 2008.

The charge was dropped in mid-April and signed by a judge on April 20 because of “Insufficient evidence to sustain the charge,” according to County Attorney Michelle Burns.

Burns said the decision was made by the County Attorney’s office in mid-April to drop the charge based on a letter signed by Ronald Trobert, an experienced accident reconstruction expert who has worked more than 20,000 accident investigations and has 25 years of experience in the field. Photos taken after the crash showed a bruise from McLaughlin’s right shoulder to his left hip, indicating he was on the passenger’s side of the car when the crash occurred.

Trobert was hired by the public defender’s office and the letter was submitted to the former administration at the County Attorney’s office in August of 2009, according to Burns.

The case has been dismissed without prejudice, meaning it could be re-opened if new evidence surfaces in the case.

“Ethically, there was no way I could stand up in front of a jury and argue it happened, because the evidence we had didn’t convince me,” Burns said in an interview Wednesday. “The evidence I was looking at did not support the charge.”

By Brad Devereaux