By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune
A woman who recently moved to the area is facing multiple charges after she allegedly drove under the influence of a controlled substance two different times last week.
Prosecutors say Lauren A. Davis knocked down a light pole in Cody around midday on Monday, Dec. 13, before causing a head-on crash in Powell that evening. Then, while police continued to investigate the circumstances of the collision, Davis is alleged to have driven impaired on Thursday morning in Cody, where she was arrested.
The Park County Attorney’s Office has charged Davis with a felony count of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor count of driving while under the influence in connection with the Dec. 13 crash in Powell, a felony DUI charge for her driving on Thursday, plus a misdemeanor count of failing to report the collision with the light pole.
During her initial court appearance Friday morning, Circuit Court Judge Joey Darrah set Davis’ bail at $50,000. Davis remained in the Park County Detention Center on Monday.
“The charges that have been alleged against you are very serious, and you could have killed someone, if they [the allegations] turn out to be true,” Darrah told the defendant.
The 31-year-old — who should not be confused with the Northwest College coach of the same name — recently moved to Park County from Missouri, police say, where she had two DUI arrests in the past nine years. Deputy County Attorney Jack Hatfield said that included a case from September, in which Davis was alleged to have driven impaired with a child in the car. In arguing for a high cash bond, Hatfield said that Davis poses a “severe public safety hazard” given her “unwillingness to stop driving under the influence of controlled substances.”
For her part, a tearful Davis told the judge that both of her prior DUI charges had been dismissed.
“I feel like that should be taken into consideration,” she said in asking for a lower bond.
“$50,000 is, I mean, I have kids,” Davis said amid sobs. “I don’t have anybody to take care of them.”
However, Hatfield said it was his understanding that Davis’ children were in the care of a local family member, and Judge Darrah noted the seriousness of the allegations.
“Think about this: If you would have been killed or paralyzed, you probably wouldn’t be able to take care of your own children,” Darrah said. He told Davis it was lucky no one was seriously injured.
It was around midday on Monday, Dec. 13, that someone reported a dark Ford Explorer SUV with Missouri license plates had crashed into and knocked down a light pole at the intersection of Cody’s 9th Street and Canyon Avenue. The driver left the scene, but a witness snapped a picture of the SUV’s license plate. Cody police had to do some legwork to determine that Davis owned the vehicle, and by that time, she’d already crashed in Powell.
A short time before the collision, around 5:15 p.m. on Dec. 13, Powell police received a report that Davis’ eastbound Explorer was driving erratically on U.S. Highway 14-A/Coulter Avenue. Powell Police Officer David Salters parked at the former Shopko to wait for the SUV, but he soon heard a crash near Yellowstone Motors.
The Cody couple in the Chevy Suburban hit by Davis later told police that “they were driving westbound on Coulter when all of a sudden they saw the headlights from Davis’ vehicle coming at them,” Salters recounted in an affidavit included in court records. The man and woman reported soreness days after the crash, the affidavit says, with the woman having “significant bruising on her chest and stomach.”
Davis had to be freed from her vehicle because of the damage from the collision — which scattered debris across and temporarily shut down the highway — and she was taken by ambulance to Powell Valley Hospital for treatment.
Inside Davis’ vehicle, Salters found bottles for a pair of anti-seizure medications (gabapentin and Klonopin), plus several strips of suboxone, a narcotic drug that can be used to treat an opioid addiction.
“Observing the opened suboxone strip, it appeared as if Davis had consumed this prior to or while driving the vehicle,” Salters wrote. According to charging documents, Davis later told another officer that “she had only taken the prescribed amounts and was not abusing the medication” in the vehicle.
Due to her hospitalization, police were unable to perform standard field sobriety tests following the crash, but Salters said he obtained a warrant for a sample of Davis’ blood, which will be tested for controlled substances.
With test results still pending, Davis went free after being released from the hospital. But around 8 a.m. Thursday, Cody police received a report of a possible impaired driver heading into the city on Big Horn Avenue. The white Ford pickup was reported to be driving all over the road. Officers found the truck illegally parked outside a Stampede Avenue day care where Davis had recently begun working and she reportedly confirmed she was the truck’s driver.
Davis told officers she was diabetic and might be suffering from low blood sugar, charging documents state, but medical personnel described her blood sugar as “perfect.” Davis also attributed her poor driving to her looking at a GPS device, but Cody Officer Seth Horn found that explanation unlikely.
Horn suspected the driver was impaired, writing in an affidavit that Davis’ speech was slow and slurred, her movements slow and uncoordinated and her expressions very flat. Around 8:40 a.m., Powell Police Officer and drug recognition expert Matt Koritnik arrived to evaluate Davis. He concluded that she was under the influence of suboxone and “too impaired to safely operate a motor vehicle,” according to Horn’s affidavit. Davis nearly passed out before being booked into jail, Horn wrote, and another blood sample was collected for testing.
In the meantime, Park County prosecutors have taken an aggressive approach to the case. Court records and statements from Hatfield indicate that authorities have only confirmed one prior DUI conviction for Davis, with police officers in both Powell and Cody recommending she be charged with a second offense in 10 years. However, Hatfield charged last week’s alleged DUIs as Davis’ third (misdemeanor) and fourth (felony) offenses in a decade.
Hatfield also filed a charge of aggravated assault and battery, alleging that Davis “knowingly” caused bodily injury to the occupants of the other vehicle in the Dec. 13 crash while using a deadly weapon (her Ford Explorer).
All told, the charges carry a theoretical maximum sentence of more than 17 years in prison.
A preliminary hearing to weigh the evidence and charges against Davis is tentatively set for Thursday.