Motorist Pleads to Manslaughter in Cyclist Death on Maricopa Road

Michael Gray (Michael Gordon Gray), 43, died Sunday April 12, 2009 when a suspected impaired driver killed him at 3PM traveling along Maricopa Road nearby the access road to the Koli Equestrian Center. GRIC (Gila River Indian Community) police say they suspect the motorist may have been under the influence.

Here is near where the collision occurred. Maricopa Road is a fast (posted 50MPH) two-lane rural highway — one narrow lane in each direction, there is a shoulder stripe and perhaps a foot or so of irregular asphalt and lots of gravel

2009 AZ Cyclist Fatality Grid

Legal minutia regarding jurisdictions involving Indian Reservations

In the present case, the victim and perp were both non-tribal members, as such the case proceeds as usual, and goes through Maricopa County prosecutor, prosecuting under Arizona state laws.

Serious crimes on any reservation involving a tribal member go to federal jurisdiction, see e.g. Sacaton man gets 27 years in killing of Gilbert bicyclist (dead link).  Since that link is dead, here’s a reference to a 2008 federal case:

Sacaton Man Sentenced to 27 Years Prison for 2nd Degree Murder and Aggravated Assault for Vehicular Homicide of Gilbert Man (U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona)
Webster Norris III, 44, of Sacaton, Ariz., was sentenced on Nov. 5, 2009, to 27 years in prison after Norris was found guilty of second degree murder and aggravated assault by a federal jury on June 26, 2009. Norris was responsible for the 2008 vehicular homicide of a bicyclist on the Gila River Indian Reservation. On Sept. 20, 2008, Norris and a female colleague spent the day drinking and driving throughout the Arizona communities of Chandler, Maricopa, Casa Blanca, Casa Grande and Sacaton. Norris collided with a bicyclist, a 60-year-old Gilbert, Ariz., man who was cross-training in preparation for a marathon.

In a subsequent appeal, the driver in the 2008 killing challenged the admission of his prior duis “prior bad acts“, but was affirmed by the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals: “We affirmed, holding that the district court correctly allowed evidence of prior DUIs into evidence to prove malice aforethought for murder in the second degree”

Here’s some more general explanations, see “Role of Gila River Indian Community Justice System”, from meeting minutes of the Arizona State, Tribal, and Federal Court Forum.

Criminal Case

I spoke with Sgt. Hilario Tanakeyowma of GRIC PD (GRIC PD main number — I had some difficulties finding this — (520)562-7139, x7122). in mid-March 2010 and he confirmed that the defendant is in custody and was charged with manslaughter.

Case is  CR2009-007876 in Maricopa County Superior Court, all case minutes . Strangely, when I looked this up in mid-March, the case was sealed for some reason(?). In any event David Allen Wiechens, Sr. plead guilty to manslaughter. Sentencing is scheduled for April 30, 2010. This carries a presumptive sentence of 10.5 years (13-704 , dangerous, non-repetitive). On April 30, for unknown reasons, sentencing was “continued” to 06/18/2010 at 8:30 a.m.

Sentencing then did occur on 6/18, minute entry here. (I had missed this bit about a prior felony: “reflect one prior felony conviction and not zero”). Defendant was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $8,019.28 restitution to the victim’s parents, and his driver’s license was revoked.

Aftermath: The defendant’s PCR was not granted and seems to have been exhausted as of 6/18/2013. There’s a minute entry in early 2011 noting that “restitution as previously
ordered by the Court has been paid in full by Defendant’s insurance company”. Wiechens apparently passed away (presumably while incarcerated?) sometime around 2015.

Arizona Crash Report

This is ADOT incident=2290572. I don’t have FARS data loaded up for 2009.

I obtained a copy of the full crash and departmental report # 09-14619 from GRIC PD. The report written by Officer M. Evins appears to be of very high quality, with several lucid pages of narrative and witness statements. The manner of collision is not at all what I had imagined. There were three cyclists traveling together; but they were not physically together. They were each separated by ~ 50 yards, and they were all riding to the right of the fog line, on the very small paved shoulder. Wiechans passed the first two without incident, after passing the second cyclist he inexplicably swerved sharply, thus striking and killing Gray. Wiechan’s statement was that he saw two cyclists only and then heard a loud bang. There were many witnesses; in addition to the two cyclists who were not struck, the driver and passenger of a car traveling behind Wiechens also saw the whole thing. Wiechans, up until the fatal swerve, did not appear to be driving erratically, according to witnesses behind him. There is a hypotheses put forward by the investigating officer about the fatal swerve: “It is believed that David (Wiechans) was drinking from the open Bud Light bottle while he was driving and possibly spilled it in his lap when the collision occurred because I observed a fairly large wet spot in the right groin area of his pants”.

Other issues: according to the report the vehicle involved was purchases just a few days before the crash; and that it had no insurance. The investigating officer found an “…Admin per se suspension in the open center console dated 1/2/09 at 2032 hours at a location in PCSO’s jurisdiction with BAC results of .171 and .164 which was impounded as evidence”.  In addtion to GRIC PD, a DPS Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) was called in, and blood was drawn.Though alcohol was clearly involved, the suspect was not apparently particularly drunk, though other impairment was suspected. Any results are not in the crash report — but presumably figured heavily into the criminal case.

azcentral :

Chandler man dies in car-bicycle accident [accident? grrrrr]

by Cathryn Creno – Apr. 17, 2009, The Arizona Republic

A 43-year-old Chandler man died Sunday after his bicycle and a car collided on Maricopa Road on the Gila River Indian Community, tribal police said Thursday.

Alia Maisonet, community public information officer, said Michael Gray was dead at the scene, in front of the Koli Equestrian Center, when medics arrived about 3 p.m. She did not release the name of the driver of the car, saying tribal police continue to investigate the accident.

The Maricopa County Medical Examiners Office said Thursday that Gray died of “multiple blunt force injuries.”

“The investigation revealed the victim was struck by a vehicle driven by a white male non-community member,” she said in a statement. “Alcohol may have been a contributing factor.”

One thought on “Motorist Pleads to Manslaughter in Cyclist Death on Maricopa Road”

  1. I was the third trailing rider, on the ride that day.

    Mr. Wiechens was trailing another car less then 10ft behind, traveling well in excess of the speed limit, in my estimation. When he hit Mike, it was a sudden unexplained swerve.

    One of the officers reported a partial 12 pack beer, with 5 cans missing and an open container, additionally there was a 750ml bottle of schnapps on the passenger floor board with a little more than a “swallow” left. The reservation police finally got a DPS phlebotomist to come out an pull a blood sample more than three hours later. The final results listed Mr Wiechens BAC at .07.

    It took almost nine months before Mr. Wiechens was arrested for killing my friend.

    Mr Wiechens has plead guilty to manslaughter, his sentencing will be April 30th.

    I have given up riding on the roads, sold my road bike, that I owned all of two months before Mike was killed. I have kept my mt. bike and ride only on closed trails.

    My family and I will forever miss our friend.

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