A District Court judge on Friday dismissed a felony-level charge against an Ignacio woman suspected of reckless driving causing the death of a Farmington man.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Todd Norvell said the felony charge prosecutors filed against Virginia Cundiff didn’t quite line up with the alleged facts in the case. More specifically, he said the vehicle Cundiff is suspected of hitting didn’t meet the definition of a “public utility service vehicle,” and thus the court had to dismiss the charge.
Cundiff, 24, remains charged with seven misdemeanors, including failure to exercise due care when approaching a stationary vehicle causing death.
But she had also been charged with failure to exercise due care when approaching a public utility service vehicle, a felony.
The crash occurred about 8:40 a.m. Feb. 10 on Colorado Highway 172, about 2 miles south of Elmore’s Corner. Dominic Sandoval, 24, and another man were setting up a work zone in preparation for utility work along the highway. Sandoval was struck by Cundiff’s vehicle and died from his injuries, according to law enforcement.
Norvell said if evidence had been presented at Cundiff’s preliminary hearing on June 14 that proved the work truck fit the definition of a “public utility service vehicle” per state statute, the charge very well could have stuck.
He said he became concerned about the prosecution’s charge after the preliminary hearing. After the hearing, he took it upon himself to investigate by wading through legislative archives.
“There were hearings in the (Colorado) Legislature and there were small portions of those hearings in which ‘public utility service vehicle’ was discussed,” Norvell said.
He offered an example of a discussion that occurred between the Colorado House Transportation and Energy Committee on April 27, 2017. He provided a time stamp of 1 hour, 38 minutes and 2 seconds into the meeting at which point a state trooper testified to the meaning of “stationary public utility service vehicles.”
Many types of work vehicles can be classified as public utility service vehicles. The judge read a lengthy list straight from state statute that included railroad companies; electric companies; wind, solar and gas companies; pipeline companies; and others. But the prosecution never specifically identified what sort of work Sandoval and his colleague George Sedlack, 53, of Colorado Springs, were performing when the crash happened.
He said, for example, if the work truck had belonged to a company installing fiber-optic cable, such as a telephone service, and the prosecution provided evidence of such, then probable cause could possibly have been established for the felony charge against Cundiff.
“The evidence does not establish probable cause for the element of offense that the vehicle be a public utility service vehicle,” he said. “This conclusion requires the court to dismiss Count 1. And it is hereby dismissed.”
Cundiff was traveling westbound on Highway 172 when her 2015 Subaru WRX smashed into the back of the work truck parked on the right shoulder. Sandoval was removing construction signage from the back of the truck when the crash occurred. The impact caused Sandoval to fall through the passenger side of Cundiff’s front windshield. Sedlack was also injured in the crash.