A Washington state man is being held on suspicion of vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter. He was distraught and emotional in Skagit County District Court during a hearing on Monday, when he was accused of causing the death of a mother of three.
Forty-three-year-old Michael J. Stephenson allegedly caused the fatal car accident on Sunday outside of Mt. Vernon. A total of five vehicles were involved in the collision.
The 49-year-old woman who died was identified as Jill Elwick. She leaves behind a husband and three children. Another driver in the collision suffered a broken wrist.
DUI Driver Deemed to Be a Suicide Risk
Court records indicate that Stephenson was so upset following the collision that he was deemed to be a suicide risk at the hospital. A trooper who responded to the accident scene said that the man was heard repeatedly saying, "I will just disappear and be no more ... You don't know what's going through my head right now." When asked whether he was thinking about hurting himself, the man said, "I've had these kind of thoughts since I was 15."
The trooper also said that the man smelled of intoxicants, had droopy and bloodshot eyes and his face was flushed.
According to a witness, Stephenson was driving a pickup truck that passed her from behind, and crossed into opposing traffic. He then collided head-on with Elwick's vehicle. Elwick's daughter said that her brother and younger sister were in the vehicle but did not suffer injury.
Driver Held on $250K Bail
Prosecutors say that Stephenson has a past history of DUI in Utah. The judge ordered him to be held on bail of $250,000. Prosecutors are expected to press charges before Wednesday.
This sad case illuminates how no one escapes a fatal DUI crash unharmed, including the driver who caused it. The accused man is clearly suffering emotionally -- so, too, are the family members of the woman who died. Now, everyone involved will have difficult and emotional court proceedings to attend to. Stephenson will likely face serious criminal charges of DUI vehicular manslaughter and assault. The family members of Elwick may also choose to pursue wrongful death claims against him in civil court.
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