Niagara Gazette

Courts

February 7, 2014

Suspect in fatal Tuscarora Indian Reservation case gets new lawyer

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A South Dakota teenager, facing a 19-count indictment in connection with a fatal accident on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation, will get a new lawyer.

Skyler Zephier, 19, will change lawyers because of a conflict of interest involving his attorney. Zephier is charged with criminally negligent homicide, second-degree manslaughter, two counts of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, two counts of aggravated vehicular manslaughter, two counts of second-degree vehicular assault, second-degree assault, two counts of driving while intoxicated, two counts of driving while under the influence of drugs, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, leaving the scene of a serious injury accident and numerous vehicle and traffic law violations including reckless driving and imprudent speed, in connection with the Sept. 8 crash on Susie’s Lane on the reservation.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is being held in lieu of bail of $100,000.

Prosecutors say Zephier was at the wheel of a Ford Explorer that was traveling south on Susie’s Lane, when it failed to yield to a car at the intersection of Upper Mountain Road. As the SUV went into the intersection, it struck the car, driving it into a field.

The force of the crash flipped the SUV and left a passenger, Brett McKee, 18, of Lewiston, pinned underneath it. Prosecutors said McKee, a resident of the Tuscarora Reservation, was asphyxiated after being caught in his seat belt.

Witnesses told police they saw a man “in a gray shirt, standing in the roadway, covered in blood.” The witnesses also said the man “got into a car and left the scene.”

Investigators determined the man in the gray shirt was Zephier and they tracked him to a home on Mount Hope Road. He was also hospitalized at that time with non-life threatening injuries.

The driver of the car, a 38-year-old man, also suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Prosecutors have said Zephier had a blood alcohol level of 0.09 percent, hours after the crash. They also said there was evidence of “drugs” in his blood.

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