Woman tried for fatal car accident | Local News | codyenterprise.com – Cody Enterprise

Please purchase a subscription to read our premium content. If you have a subscription, please log in or sign up for an account on our website to continue.
Want to read more from the Cody Enterprise? Stay in the loop…buy a package!
If you have not already registered (created a username and password) then click on the link below to register.
If you have already registered (you already have a username and password), please click on the Get Started below.
Account Number
Your account number is located in the upper left hand corner on your address label on the Enterprise you receive in the mail or on the renewal form you received. 
The last name must read exactly as it is printed on your label. Enter the account number WITHOUT the leading zeros on the label.
Please log in, or sign up for a new account to continue reading.
Thank you for reading! We hope that you continue to enjoy our free content.
Welcome! We hope that you enjoy our free content.
Thank you for reading! On your next view you will be asked to log in to your subscriber account or create an account and subscribepurchase a subscription to continue reading.
Thank you for reading! On your next view you will be asked to log in to your subscriber account or create an account and subscribepurchase a subscription to continue reading.
Thank you for signing in! We hope that you continue to enjoy our free content.

As the May 10 bench trial for the Minnesota woman charged in the death of Dominic Gibson got underway, the Park County Circuit Court courtroom was filled with community members wearing T-shirts that read “In Loving Memory of Dominic Gibson.”
“The outpouring of love there was incredible … it took your breath away,” said Johanna Holly, the mother of Gibson’s fiance. “We even felt Dominic there.”
“This is a tragic situation,” said Alex Sitz, counsel for Shobhana Raghavendra Rao.
Rao, 63, was charged with homicide by vehicle in October of last year, which stemmed from an Aug. 2, 2022, motor vehicle crash in which Rao pulled up to the stop sign to turn left from Meeteetse Highway onto Greybull Highway, toward Cody.
As Rao pulled onto Greybull Highway, Gibson, riding a 1984 Honda Acro 125 motorcycle, collided with the front end of her rental van.
He was taken to Cody Regional Health and then transported to Billings Clinic Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries on Aug. 3, 2022.
Rao waived her right to a jury trial and opted for a one-day bench trial, where her guilt or innocence will be determined by Circuit Court Judge Joey Darrah. By the end of the day, he had not reached a verdict, telling the court he would need time to make a decision.
Opening statements
Park County Deputy Prosecutor Larry Eichele opened by telling Darrah the evidence will show that Rao was “responsible for the death of the young man” because of her “negligent driving” after she pulled out in front of him, not providing Gibson with enough time to avoid her.
In his opening statement, Sitz addressed the attendees that filled the courtroom.
“We are sorry for the loss the community has suffered,” he said. “But there’s nothing we can do today that is going to help.”
Sitz said Rao’s case wasn’t a criminal case but a civil one.
He said it would be difficult for the state to prove the two elements of vehicular homicide — that Rao drove in a criminally negligent manner and that she and not any other intervening presence caused the accident.
Sitz said Rao wasn’t intoxicated, under the influence, on drugs, drowsy or evading law enforcement when the crash occurred. Rather, she came to a complete stop, looked both ways and pulled out, he said.
“This is a case about a blind spot,” Sitz said, “about Gibson being obscured in the background with other vehicles that were there.
“This case would be totally different if she had seen Gibson and decided to pull out.”
State calls its first
Eichele called Stephen Jones, who witnessed the accident, to the stand.
Jones testified he was heading eastbound by five to seven lengths behind Gibson.
“As we approached the intersection, I noticed a car stopped at the T-intersection,” he said.
When Rao began making the left-hand turn towards Cody, Jones said he began to slow down.
“It looked like there was going to be a problem,” he said. “I felt there was going to be an accident.”
Jones said he observed Gibson braking so hard his rear tire created a puff of smoke and Gibson was swerving.
Upon impact, Gibson went over the top of the van and the van pulled over onto the westbound shoulder, Jones said.
Jones said he pulled over and tried to give aid to Gibson, but thought he was deceased.
“I believe at the time he put on the brakes, he was too close to the car to be able to successfully swerve around the van,” Jones said, adding that he did not observe anything that would have obstructed Rao’s view.
During his cross examination, Sitz said a light pole at that intersection could have been in Rao’s line of sight.
And Sitz said the intersection was a “difficult” one with four lanes of traffic, airport hangars in the background, a stop sign that sits 56 feet back from the intersection and overhead highway signs obstructing the view.
State calls second
Gibson’s mother, Kelly Lohstreter, testified next, saying she was first notified of the accident by her boyfriend who had seen Gibson lying on the highway.
She went to the hospital to wait for the ambulance to arrive with her son, and was able to see Gibson before he was life-flighted to Billings.
“I got to tell him I loved him and that I would be there when he gets back, but he wasn’t conscious and he couldn’t talk to me,” Lohstreter said.
He had suffered numerous injuries, she said. When his condition deteriorated, and he had no brain activity, “I had to authorize them to unplug the machines and let him expire,” she said.
Sitz had no questions for Lohstreter during his cross examination but told her, “We can’t even imagine what you’ve gone through.”
State calls third
Wyoming Highway Patrolman Brett Tillery said,“In my opinion, it was a severe accident.”
During an interview with Rao, Tillery said she admitted to being the driver of the van but stated “she didn’t see anybody” and “out of nowhere, a motorcycle was coming at me.”
She made the comment that the motorcycle was “going too fast and then it hit her,” Tillery said.
Tillery was cross examined by Jason Ochs, co-counsel for Rao.
Ochs said there were no signs Rao was attempting to flee the scene but was “compliant” with Tillery’s requests.
Tillery testified that Rao did not drive “appropriately” when he escorted her to the Yellowstone Regional Airport.
He said she stayed in the left lane of traffic to make a turn into the airport rather than using the turn lane.
Ochs noted that in Tillery’s report of the crash, Rao had stopped at the stop sign, stated she didn’t see anybody, looked both ways, tried to avoid the motorcycle and stopped immediately after the crash.
But Tillery said Rao “might have been fatigued” because “she mentioned they had been driving for a long time that day.”
Ochs, though, said motorcycles are vulnerable to other driver’s blind spots and that the intersection has plenty of items that can obscure vehicles from a driver’s line of sight.
State calls fourth
WHP Trooper Ryan Logan, who reconstructed the Aug. 2 car accident, said he determined the cause of the crash was human error.
Weather was not a factor as it was a “fair condition day,” he said. And, a mechanical failure was not the cause.
“Failure to yield was the human error,” Logan said.
In his cross examination, Ochs said Rao’s eyes had been fixed on larger objects.
“In spite of doing everything you think you’re doing right, you can still fail to see objects,” he said. “It’s a common problem where a driver looks but fails to see a motorcycle on a highway.”
Prosection gives
closing argument
Since the defense called no witnesses, Eichele presented his closing argument.
The state had proved the element of homicide by vehicle — Rao was the one operating the vehicle, and it was her conduct that caused the crash, he said.
“She was the legal cause of the victim’s injuries and death,” Eichele said.
Rao was criminally negligent in pulling out in front of Gibson, he said.
“She had a duty of care not to violate a person’s right of way,” Eichele said. “Her defense that ‘I didn’t see him,’ that’s not a defense.”
“Her perception was well below the standard of care that you don’t pull out in front of somebody because you could harm them,” he continued. “The death … is a situation she created.”
Defense gives its
closing argument
Ochs said he questioned whether failure-to-yield constitutes a gross deviation of the standard of care a reasonable person should practice, as the criminal negligence statute states.
Ochs said Rao had practiced standard of care by stopping at the stop sign, looking both ways, making sure it was clear before proceeding into it, trying to avoid the motorcycle before the crash and pulling over and waiting for law enforcement.
“When she entered the intersection, she had no perception there was no reason not to enter,” he said.
If failure-to-yield is accepted as a gross deviation of standard of care, Ochs said, then “under what circumstances can anyone stop at a stop sign, see nothing and feel okay to go forward if there’s fear they’ll hit someone?”
Next steps
Darrah said he would need time to “make sure I get this right. This is not an easy case, and it would be difficult for a jury to decide.”
The judge said he would make a decision and issue an order after reviewing the evidence.
Your comment has been submitted.

There was a problem reporting this.
Log In
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.
Sorry, there are no recent results for popular videos.