Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 14, 2014

Teen faces 3 to 9 years in prison for fatal accident on Tuscarora Reservation

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A South Dakota teenager will spend the next three to nine years in a New York State prison for his role in a fatal accident on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation.

Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas sentenced Skyler Zephier, 19, to 3 to 9 years in prison for his guilty plea to a charge of second-degree manslaughter, 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison for his guilty plea to a charge of second-degree vehicular assault and one year in Niagara County jail for his plea to a single count of driving while intoxicated.

The sentences will all run concurrently and will be served in state prison.  

Zephier had faced a 19-count indictment, including charges of 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, before accepting a plea deal from prosecutors in March.

Prosecutors charged that Zephier was at the wheel of a Ford Explorer that was traveling south on Susie’s Lane on the reservation on Sept. 8, 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.”

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