A judge ruled Wednesday there is sufficient evidence for a Tahlequah man to stand trial on a first-degree manslaughter charge filed after a fatal single-vehicle crash last March.

Rickey Dewayne Christie, 47, was ordered to return to court Feb. 23 at 1:30 p.m. for a district court arraignment before Chief District Judge Bruce Sewell. Prosecutors say Christie killed Lisa Pena by driving while intoxicated March 30.

First Assistant District Attorney Donovan Dobbs called the state’s witnesses at a prior hearing, and Associate District Judge Mark Dobbins reset the remainder of the hearing to Wednesday to allow defense attorney Nathan H. Young III time to call defense witnesses.

Young told the court Christie did not want to appear before him in a jail uniform and wanted permission to return to the jail to put on jeans and a T-shirt. Dobbins said the request is commonly associated with a jury trial, and the case was set before him for a preliminary hearing. He denied the request.

Alan Nichols, of Keys Lawn and Garden, said he saw the car rolling into the ditch from the front window of his place of employment. Nichols said he saw a woman’s body lying in the ditch. He also observed beer cans inside the vehicle, a Saturn, and smelled alcohol in the car. Nichols noticed a liquor bottle on the ground and knew it came from the car, because he cleans the ditch on a regular basis.

He testified he didn’t smell alcohol on Pena.

Dana Tiger, a local artist, said she knows Christie and Pena, but didn’t see them March 30, the day of the crash. She said Pena told her she was afraid of Christie, and that Christie had slammed Pena’s head down on the hood of a car. Tiger did not see the incident, however.

Janita Fields told Dobbins she saw Pena, her neighbor, on March 30. She said three Indian men drove up and picked Pena up the day of the crash. Fields testified she heard Pena say something to another neighbor about drinking vodka. Fields also testified she believes her boyfriend, Everett Huffman, saw more than she did that day. Huffman had been working on Fields’ car.

Young said he wants to call Huffman as a witness, based on Fields’ statement. He reminded those present that first-degree manslaughter carries a possible life sentence. Dobbins said he saw no need to reset the hearing to allow Young time to talk to Huffman. The judge added that Young has known about Huffman for some time, and should have subpoenaed him if he wanted him to testify.

Young said he does intend to speak with Huffman before the trial. Dobbins said it is proper for defense attorneys to speak with state witnesses and prosecutors to speak with defense witnesses.

Jimmie Akers, a student from Red Oak, testified she followed Christie for two or three miles prior to the crash and saw the Saturn almost hit a truck head-on. She said the Saturn crossed the center line several times and went onto the shoulder and back onto the roadway more than once. She tried to call 911 on her cell phone, but couldn’t get service in the Keys area.

Akers testified the car was traveling at a high rate of speed before the crash. She said she and others stopped after the crash. She said she only saw one person in the car before the crash.

“I could hear someone saying, ‘Help! Get me out,’” Akers testified.

At the conclusion of the heating, Young told Dobbins he may not be representing Christie on the new charges filed against him this week. He said Betty Smith had paid his retainer on the manslaughter case, but is the complaining witness in the new cases.

“There may be a conflict,” Young said.

Dobbins said the issue could be discussed later.

Tags