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Thompson Falls school board member charged with vehicular homicide while drunk

Thompson Falls school board member charged with vehicular homicide while drunk

  • Updated

THOMPSON FALLS — The vice chairman of the Thompson Falls School Board has been charged with four felonies, including two counts of vehicular homicide while under the influence.

Court documents say that Lance Pavlik had a blood alcohol content of 0.245, or more than three times the legal limit, when his 2009 Toyota Tacoma pickup allegedly crossed the centerline on Sept. 8 and ran head-on into a 1994 Saturn, killing one of its passengers, 23-year-old Christina Rae Jackson, on impact.

The car’s driver and Jackson’s fiancé, 32-year-old Jeremiah Abel Bennett, was pronounced dead a short time later at Clark Fork Valley Hospital in Plains.

Bennett’s two children, 4-year-old Mya and 2-year-old Abel – strapped in car seats in the Saturn’s rear seat – were both injured in the crash.

The 2-year-old suffered two broken legs and the 4-year-old one broken leg, leading to two felony charges of criminal endangerment against Pavlik.

The documents state that Pavlik, 46, the golf professional at Thompson Falls’ Rivers Bend Golf Course, denied having had anything to drink the night of the crash outside of “a couple of O’Doul’s,” a nonalcoholic drink.

Multiple witnesses contradicted that, the documents state.

Pavlik, who also was hospitalized in Plains, agreed to allow a Montana Highway Patrol trooper have Pavlik’s blood drawn and tested the next morning, several hours after the crash.

Pavlik’s BAC was 0.11 at that time, over the legal limit of 0.08, and the state subsequently subpoenaed hospital records pertaining to the analysis of Pavlik’s blood shortly after he had been admitted.

Those revealed his BAC allegedly had been 0.245 near the time of the crash.

The documents said blood samples taken from the bodies of Jackson and Bennett and sent to the Montana State Crime Lab showed no evidence of drugs or alcohol in either of them.

The crash occurred at 11:40 p.m. on Prospect Creek Road west of Thompson Falls.

Pavlik was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Thompson Falls School Board in September 2005, and has continued to hold the seat since being elected in May 2006.

The charging documents state that “the extent of Pavlik’s injuries is not contained in the investigative report.”

Pavlik worked at the golf course the day in question, a Saturday, and also golfed the last nine holes of the club championship, according to the affidavit filed by Sanders County Attorney Bob Zimmerman.

A golf course employee told investigators that, to her knowledge, Pavlik consumed one beer before she left at 4:30 p.m. to attend a baby shower at Rimrock Lodge, a Thompson Falls bar, restaurant, bowling alley and motel.

The employee, Kim Sparks, said she left the baby shower, being held in the bowling alley, at 7 p.m. and saw Pavlik drinking beer in the Rimrock Lodge’s bar. She sat with him, bought him another beer, and said she left between 8:30 and 8:45 p.m.

Another witness, Walt Gilroy, said he arrived at the bar at 9:30 p.m. and Sparks and Pavlik were still sitting together. Gilroy said Sparks left about 15 minutes later.

“Gilroy noted that he could see that Pavlik was falling asleep at the bar,” the affidavit says. “Gilroy asked Pavlik if he was okay. Pavlik told him he was fine. Gilroy offered Pavlik a ride home and Pavlik said that he was fine.”

Gilroy said he left the bar at 10 p.m.

Bartender Jamie Schulke told investigators Pavlik had arrived before dusk, about the same time Sparks left the baby shower and came into the bar.

“Schulke said that Pavlik was talking about how he was working 18 hours a day and that he was tired,” the court documents state. “Schulke said that Kim Sparks had about three beers to Pavlik’s not even one.”

The bartender told investigators that Pavlik drank three “pounders” of Alaskan Amber while she was there, and that she poured some of the last beer away when “Pavlik became aggressive toward her after Walt Gilroy had left the bar.”

Gilroy said that while he was still present Schulke had already told Pavlik she wouldn’t serve him any more. The bartender said she ordered Pavlik to leave after he became aggressive, and Pavlik did so sometime between 10:30 and 10:45 p.m.

“Jamie Schulke said that Pavlik looked beyond tired, that he was just sitting there and he looked exhausted,” the affidavit says.

The head-on collision occurred approximately an hour later.

Bennett, a Colorado native who lived in Thompson Falls, had asked Jackson, of Noxon, to marry him in May. They were planning a 2013 wedding.

Bennett’s children now reportedly live with their mother.

Each count of vehicular homicide while under the influence carries a potential prison term of up 30 years and a $50,000 fine. Criminal endangerment is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.



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