Kennewick woman charged with vehicular assault in 2011 crash

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldJuly 13, 2014 

A Kennewick woman is being held on $100,000 bail on charges she was driving erratically and intoxicated when her SUV slammed into the back of a car in Pasco.

Ariel Marie Conger recently was charged for the 2011 crash because the victim, a Benton-Franklin Superior Court judge's wife, continues to suffer from neck pain.

Also, Conger's original driving under the influence case in Franklin County District Court was never resolved because she allegedly skipped out on a court appearance.

So after reviewing the collision and victim's medical reports, Deputy Prosecutor Teddy Chow decided to charge Conger in Franklin County Superior Court.

Conger, 35, faces one count each of vehicular assault, a felony, DUI, a gross misdemeanor and bail jumping, a misdemeanor.

She appeared in court on the new case July 8, but Judge Bruce Spanner -- the victim's husband -- was on the bench. Spanner recused himself and reset the hearing for this Tuesday to be heard by another judge.

According to court documents, a motorist called 911 at 12:35 p.m. April 21, 2011, to report an erratically driven Dodge Durango on eastbound Interstate 182. As the motorist stayed on the phone with a dispatcher waiting for a Washington State Patrol trooper to respond, he witnessed the SUV make a sudden lane change at high speed and hit the back of a Volkswagen Beetle.

The crash occurred near Road 68.

Trooper Chris Thorson noticed that Conger appeared to be impaired, and she admitted to alcohol and prescription drug use, documents said.

Conger refused to be evaluated at the scene by a drug recognition expert, and a breath test came back .037 percent.

The legal limit in Washington is .08.

Thorson got a search warrant to get blood samples, which showed the presence of blood ethanol, methamphetamine and alprazolam, court documents said.

The victim, Mary Spanner, went to the emergency room at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland an hour after the crash.

She reported neck and lower back strain and pain in her right arm and ankle, was X-rayed and treated, and had to miss a few days of work while recovering. She got follow-up medical care, including chiropractic treatment, from two doctors with at least 20 visits by November 2011, documents said.

Spanner told investigators in March of this year that her neck pain continues.

Prosecutors also allege that while charged with DUI in District Court, Conger was instructed Dec. 11, 2012, to return for a scheduled hearing date but failed to show.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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