A Texas man accused of causing the death of two people in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 90 made his first appearance Monday in a Montana courtroom.
Corey Brooks Jay, 26, appeared in Yellowstone County Justice Court by video from the county jail on four felony charges related to the Oct. 2 wreck near the Zoo Drive exit. Judge Larry Herman maintained Jay's bond at $100,000, the amount set on an arrest warrant issued Nov. 5.
Jay was arrested on the warrant Dec. 19 in Las Cruces, N.M., and was extradited back to Montana on two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of criminal endangerment. Herman ordered Jay to appear Friday for arraignment in District Court.
The charges allege Jay was driving drunk when his westbound Ford F-150 pickup truck crossed the median and continued the wrong way for nearly one-fifth of a mile before crashing head-on into a Chrysler Sebring. The occupants of the car, David Hanson, 55, and Janice Thomas, 56, both of Missoula, were killed at the scene.
The criminal endangerment charges allege that the lives of other motorists were at risk when Jay's truck crossed into oncoming traffic at highway speed. One driver told investigators he saw the pickup headed toward him and changed lanes to avoid being hit. The man said he had to change lanes a second time when the pickup also switched lanes as it approached.
Another driver said she had to drive off the right shoulder of the highway to avoid being hit as the pickup approached.
In court records, prosecutors allege Jay had a blood-alcohol level of 0.095 percent, above the state legal limit for driving of 0.08 percent. He was injured in the crash, but left Montana for New Mexico after he was released from St. Vincent Healthcare a short time later.
Deputy County Attorney David Carter said Monday that Jay was in the Billings area for only two weeks before the crash. Court records indicate that he was working at the refinery in Laurel. Jay has a previous misdemeanor assault conviction in Texas, Carter said.
A public defender who appeared with Jay said he lives in New Mexico and has two young children. Jay, who appeared in the video using crutches, has ongoing medical concerns that include a broken back and crushed foot, said Deputy Public Defender Eric Bunn.
Court records state that Jay told investigators that on the day of the crash he had been drinking beer at his hotel room and at a casino. He was on his way to Shotgun Willie's strip club at the time of the crash, he said. Jay said he may have fallen asleep or blacked out before the crash, the records state.
The collision between the pickup and the car spread debris across a large area of the highway and closed the eastbound lanes for several hours.