A Lame Deer man admitted on Tuesday that he was driving after drinking and smoking marijuana when the hit and killed a pedestrian on Highway 212 on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and then fled the scene.
Marlin Dell Whitedirt, 44, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Billings to involuntary manslaughter in the Nov. 2, 2013, death of the victim, identified as A.L.C.
A plea agreement calls for the prosecution to recommend a two-year sentence. The maximum penalty is eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A.L.C. was “highly intoxicated” while walking near the fog line along the highway at about 2:30 a.m. when he was struck by Whitedirt’s 2006 Chevrolet Suburban and died, said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Sullivan.
During a hearing before U.S. District Judge Susan Watters, Sullivan said on the night of the crime, Whitedirt was working as a security guard on the graveyard shift at the senior living center in Lame Deer.
Whitedirt spent much of his time parked in his vehicle in front of the center. Two other residents of the senior living center were present, he said.
One of the residents told law enforcement that all three had smoked marijuana sometime after midnight on the morning of Nov. 2, while the other person said he and Whitedirt split a half pint of Black Velvet at about midnight.
After drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana, Whitedirt drove home from work. Shortly before 2:30 a.m., he struck A.L.C. but did not stop, Sullivan said.
Whitedirt told officials later that after hitting the victim, he drove to the Muddy Creek area and waited a few hours before driving back past the scene. He then drove home and drank another half pint of Black Velvet.
The next morning, Whitedirt’s wife called law enforcement after reading about a pedestrian getting killed on Highway 212, and officers arrested Whitedirt.
A blood sample taken from Whitedirt about nine hours after the crash showed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.025 percent, along with a tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of 6.6 nanograms/milliliter.
A calculation estimated that at the time of the collision, Whitedirt’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.16 percent, which is twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent, Sullivan said. Also, it is illegal to drive in Montana with a THC concentration greater than 5 mg/ml.
In addition, evidence at the scene collected by FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs included a mostly smoked marijuana cigarette on the passenger side of Whitedirt’s vehicle, paint chips from the victim’s clothing that matched Whitedirt’s vehicle and the victim’s DNA on the vehicle, Sullivan said.
Watters set sentencing for March 10 and ordered Whitedirt into custody on an outstanding warrant for violating pre-trial release conditions by having three positive tests for marijuana. In addition, a urine analysis test taken immediately before Tuesday’s hearing showed Whitedirt tested positive for marijuana.
Whitedirt told Watters judge he had last consumed marijuana on Friday. Watters said a hearing will be held on whether to revoke Whitedirt’s release pending sentencing.