Niagara Gazette

Courts

March 6, 2014

Teen takes plea, admits role in fatal DWI accident on Tuscarora Reservation

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A South Dakota teenager, facing a 19-count indictment in connection with a fatal accident on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation, has taken a plea offer from prosecutors.

At a hearing in Niagara County Court on Wednesday afternoon, Skyler Zephier, 19, pleaded guilty to two counts of driving while intoxicated and single counts of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree vehicular assault.

Zephier had been 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.

County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas indicated she would cap Zephier’s possible prison term at three to nine years in return for his guilty pleas. Zephier is currently being held in the Niagara County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

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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