Attorneys expect to be ready for Richland vehicular homicide trial

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldApril 10, 2014 

Attorneys expect to be ready for trial April 21 in the case of a Richland woman charged with killing another motorist while driving under the influence of prescription drugs.

The case would go to a jury just three months after Natalie M. Lincoln of Richland was charged in Benton County Superior Court with vehicular homicide.

The crash that killed Steven S. Covert, 50, of West Richland, happened June 11 when Lincoln reportedly missed a curve on Van Giesen Street, crossed over the centerline and the turn lane and hit his car in the oncoming lane.

Lincoln, 33, was driving from West Richland into Richland, and claimed she was looking down to adjust her cruise control when her car left her lane, court documents said. She told authorities she had taken a stimulant, a muscle relaxant and an antidepressant the day of the crash.

Covert's car spun around after being hit by Lincoln's car, then was struck by another car behind him, documents said.

Judge Cameron Mitchell ordered an evidentiary hearing before trial to determine if there was probable cause for a blood draw after the crash.

After listening to arguments from the lawyers Thursday, Mitchell said there's nothing to show his colleague, Judge Carrie Runge, abused her discretion in issuing a warrant after a phone call from an officer.

However, Mitchell questions if there were "intentional or reckless omissions" by Richland Officer Luke Flohr for not telling Runge about drug-recognition tests that were done on Lincoln before she was given morphine at the hospital following the wreck.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Andres Martinez reportedly found no signs initially that Lincoln was under the influence, but changed his mind when Flohr brought him into an exam room to redo the standard tests. That was about five minutes after hospital staff had administered morphine for Lincoln.

Mitchell said he has concerns about why the initial test results weren't mentioned to Runge in seeking the search warrant.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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