Homicide charge dismissed against driver disabled in deadly crash

Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 5:18 p.m. MDT

Filemon "Phil" Montoya was killed April 21, 2012, when another driver hit his SUV head-on about 15 miles south of Moab on state Route 191. Erik H. Yazzie, 33, of Phoenix, was charged with automobile homicide but those charges were dismissed this week.

, Utah Highway Patrol

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MONTICELLO, San Juan County — A judge has dismissed all charges against a driver who was permanently disabled in a suspected DUI crash that killed another man.

Erik H. Yazzie, 33, of Phoenix, faced charges of automobile homicide, a second-degree felony; DUI, a third-degree felony; theft by receiving stolen property, a class A misdemeanor; and improper lane travel, a class C misdemeanor.

Prosecutors, however, asked 7th District Judge Lyle Anderson to dismiss the case Monday, citing the debilitating injuries Yazzie suffered in the crash that killed Filemon "Phil" Ellis of Sweetwater, Texas.

"Mr. Yazzie obtained documents from doctors in Arizona, where he is being cared for by his ex-wife, saying that he is an invalid, has the mental capacity of a 9- or 10-year-old and is unable to care for himself," San Juan County Attorney Craig Halls told the Deseret News.

"There's not a lot of utility in us taking a person in that condition (to trial)," Halls said.

Based on the doctors' statements, Anderson granted the prosecution's request.

Yazzie left a Moab restaurant on April 21, 2012, without paying for his meal, stole a car and was "fleeing from Moab" when he slammed into Ellis' sport utility vehicle about 15 miles south of town on state Route 191, according to charging documents. Ellis died at the scene.

Tests showed Yazzie had a blood-alcohol content of 0.21, the charges state. The legal threshold for impairment in Utah is .08.

Geoff Liesik

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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