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Woman involved in Highway 93 crash pleads guilty

by SCOT HEISEL
Lake County Leader | April 29, 2021 12:10 AM

A Charlo woman accused of driving drunk during a fiery crash on U.S. 93 that left a man with serious injuries last summer pleaded guilty to felony negligent vehicular assault - serious bodily injury as part of a plea agreement April 22 in Lake County District Court.

Judge Deborah “Kim” Christopher set a sentencing date of June 10 for Stacy Leann Markus, 52, of Charlo. Markus faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine.

The plea agreement calls for a suspended sentence and restitution.

According to court documents, on Aug. 16, Markus pulled from Eagle Pass Trail, near Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge, onto U.S. 93 in front of a Suburban pulling a camper. The southbound Suburban ran into the rear of a pickup driven by Markus.

Both vehicles erupted into flames. The driver of the Suburban was trapped inside with a broken leg while the rest of the family, from North Dakota, were able to escape the Suburban as it caught fire.

A Mission Valley resident, Chad Killorn, stopped and helped pull the driver from the burning vehicle before it exploded. Killorn was aided by others in helping the man escape.

Investigating officers determined Markus showed signs of intoxication. A Montana Highway Patrol trooper noticed Markus’ eyes were watery, and a Lake County Sheriff’s deputy gave her field sobriety tests, which she failed, according to authorities.

Lake County Chief Deputy Attorney James Lapotka said Markus has no criminal history, no driving infractions and spent a month in jail following the crash. She also attended a 30-day treatment program.

He said the case also involves significant restitution for the victims, and the plea agreement would help clear the way for restitution to happen.

Defense attorney Lance Jasper said Markus also has divorce and bankruptcy cases pending, and she has essentially sold her house and is attempting to give the money to the victim’s family. Markus did not have vehicle insurance at the time of the crash.