Rifle man skips sentencing after manslaughter conviction stemming from drunk driving death
RIFLE — Cody Christopher, convicted by jury of vehicular manslaughter in June, failed to appear for his sentencing hearing Friday and is now wanted on $50,000 cash-only bond.
Christopher, 41, was out on bond throughout his trial.
At 9:15 a.m., Neiley entered the courtroom and noted Christopher’s absence.
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“Obviously, we can’t proceed without him here,” Neiley said.
Ann Roan, an attorney representing Christopher at the hearing, said she thought Christopher was going to be there. Roan also said she didn’t know where her client was.
Neiley said he would give him some more time to arrive, in case Christopher was stuck in construction traffic.
“I don’t think that should be a valid excuse,” Ninth District deputy prosecutor Sarah Nordgaard said.
Christopher was likely coming from Rifle, Nordgaard said, and would not be affected by ongoing construction in south Glenwood Springs.
“There are plenty of people who made it here,” Nordgaard added, referring to more than 20 of Christopher’s friends and supporters, many of whom attended the trial.
Neiley reconvened the hearing at 9:40, and issued the bench warrant for Christopher’s arrest.
Christopher was convicted of vehicular homicide for crashing a Ford Excursion while intoxicated Dec. 29, 2017, killing Matt Smith, then 41, and Trent Johnson, then 36.
Johnson’s son, then 10 years old, was severely injured in the crash.
In his testimony at the trial, Christopher maintained that he was not drunk at the time of the crash, but drank heavily after hiking from the site of the crash, along Puma Paw Road north of Rifle, to a ranch house with the 10-year-old survivor.
Christopher also suffered a head injury in the crash.
Christopher’s sentencing hearing was initially scheduled on a docket day, Aug. 22, where there would be limited time for the hearing.
Christopher’s defense attorney requested an “off-docket” hearing, because they wanted to schedule more time to present evidence at sentencing.
Neiley noted that he was willing to listen to any and all friends or family of Christopher who wanted to speak regarding the sentencing.
Defense attorney Roan declined further comment, as did several friends of Christopher.
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