Prosecutors amend charges against teen defendant in fatal crash

2014-06-05T12:40:00Z 2014-06-06T10:44:14Z Prosecutors amend charges against teen defendant in fatal crashBy EDDIE GREGG egregg@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Prosecutors on Thursday filed amended charges against an 18-year-old accused of driving more than 100 mph while high on meth, causing a fiery crash in Lockwood that killed a mother and seriously injured her daughter in April 2013.

Damian Scott Strever appeared in Yellowstone County District Court by video from the county jail, where he was charged with felony counts of negligent homicide, negligent vehicular assault, criminal endangerment and misdemeanor drug paraphernalia possession.

Strever was previously charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence, which carries a harsher penalty than negligent homicide, but Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Chris Morris said prosecutors determined that because Strever was 17 at the time of the crash, he can not legally be charged with vehicular homicide.

Charging documents say Strever was driving a Buick Regal at speeds up to 103 mph — nearly double the 55 mph speed limit — on April 21, 2013, when he crashed near North Frontage and ExxonMobil roads. The car landed on its top and caught fire.

One of Strever’s passengers, 26-year-old Nina M. Klein, of Billings, died in the crash. Another passenger, Klein’s 4-year-old daughter, was pinned between her mother and the crushed roof of the car, according to prosecutors. She suffered a broken pelvis and head and chest injuries.

Montana Highway Patrol investigated the crash and determined that none of the occupants were wearing seat belts. A trooper reported there was no indication of the car’s brakes being applied prior to the crash. The car left the road and vaulted through the air, travelling about 160 feet, before landing in a field and catching fire.

An ambulance took Strever to Billings Clinic, where hospital staff found suspected drug paraphernalia in his clothing, prosecutors said.

They also say a blood test showed he had meth in his system at the time of the crash.

When Strever was initially charged, a prosecutor said Strever has been convicted for driving under the influence of drugs since his alleged involvement in the fatal crash.

Strever remains in the county jail on a total bond of $35,585 and has a June 27 hearing to determine whether his case while be prosecuted in district court or transferred to youth court.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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