Mont. Man Charged with Vehicular Homicide in Fatal Crash

January 31, 2008

A man who pulled his Jeep out of a tavern parking lot into the path of a speeding car, leading to a crash that killed the car’s passenger, has been charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence.

Investigators say both Joseph Ponce, 24, and the driver of the car, Eric Lybecker, 32, had blood-alcohol levels above the legal limit of 0.08.

Ponce, whose blood-alcohol level was 0.138, is also charged with failing to stop or remain at the scene of a fatal accident, a felony, along with misdemeanor counts of driving with a suspended or revoked license and driving without insurance.

Justice of the Peace Larry Herman set Ponce’s bail at $50,000. Ponce’s attorney, George Radovich, sought a bail of $5,000, saying his client has no felony criminal record and was becoming a father to a baby boy being born “as we speak.”

The crash caused the car to spin out of control and hit a traffic light pole, killing passenger James Thole, 35, of Billings.

Court records said a breath test at the hospital showed Lybecker’s blood-alcohol level was 0.285 percent at the time of the crash. Investigators say he was driving 65 mph in a 35 mph zone when the Jeep pulled out of the parking lot.

Prosecutors have not said whether charges will be filed against Lybecker, who remained hospitalized in fair condition Tuesday.

Information from: Billings Gazette,

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