Criminal charge filed in fatal Montana crash

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A 27-year-old man allegedly involved in an August 2010 fatal vehicle crash has been charged in Fifth Judicial District Court in Madison County, Mont.

According to court records, Louis Austin Schardine has been charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence, a felony.

The charging document alleges Schardine “negligently caused the death of Sarah Fleming while operating a motor vehicle.”

Fleming, a Craig native and a 2006 Moffat County High School graduate, was 22.

Schardine was arraigned Jan. 24 in Madison County, and pleaded not guilty.

A trial date has not been set.

On Aug. 14, 2010, Schardine was allegedly driving a Ford truck on U.S. Highway 87 about five miles south of Ennis, Mont., when he allegedly lost control of the vehicle.

Fleming was a passenger in the truck.

According to the charging document, the charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in state prison, a $50,000 fine or both.

Prosecutor Chris Christensen said plea discussions have not taken place nor would they be appropriate at this time.

“That’s way down the road,” Christensen said. “The defense hasn’t even gotten our discovery (evidence) — that’s everything we have from our investigation.”

Christensen said Schardine has been released on bond, and is now in Colorado.

Schardine has no prior convictions and has been cooperative, Christensen said. He appeared at the arraignment on his own recognizance.

“In other words, we didn’t have to give him an arrest warrant or have the court issue a summons ordering him to appear,” Christensen said. “He came on his own when notified to do so.”

Christensen said Schardine’s cooperation and the nature of the incident were factors in setting bond.

“It’s not the type of crime where it’s an intentional thing, in the sense of criminal intent,” Christensen said. “And so, the court took that into account and allowed him to go out of state.”

Before leaving Montana, Schardine was required to sign a waiver of extradition, Christensen said.

“He had to sign a waiver of extradition, so we don’t have to go through a governor’s warrant to get him back here if he were to abscond, or something,” he said.

Schardine and Fleming were engaged to be married.

Christensen acknowledged the emotional impact of the circumstances surrounding the case.

“It’s not the type (of case) you like to try,” he said.

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