Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CHRISTIAN COUNTY Honorable Laura J.
Lynn Montiel ("Defendant") appeals from her
convictions for one count of second-degree assault and one
count of leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident.
Defendant claims (1) the evidence was insufficient to support
her conviction for second-degree assault because there was no
evidence her actions were reckless; (2) the trial court erred
in failing to sua sponte instruct the jury to
disregard the prosecutor's comment that Defendant's
attorney committed an ethical violation; and (3) the evidence
was insufficient to support her conviction for leaving the
scene of a motor vehicle accident because there was no
evidence she knew injury or property damage had occurred.
Defendant's arguments are without merit, and the trial
court's judgment is affirmed.
and Procedural Background
Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the
trial court's judgment. State v. Wilson, 333
S.W.3d 526, 527 (Mo. App. S.D. 2011). So viewed, the
following facts were proven at trial.
Rickard ("Victim") was horseback riding along Blue
Springs Road with his friend Brad Rozell ("Mr.
Rozell") around sunset on October 21, 2011. Victim and
his horse, Poco, were about 4 feet off the roadway when they
were hit from behind by a minivan. Mr. Rozell, who was riding
another horse ahead of Victim, heard an explosive sound. He
saw the minivan and established eye contact with the female
driver who slowed initially before speeding away. Mr. Rozell
then found Victim injured and unconscious lying half on and
half off the road. Poco was also unconscious and clearly
Lawson arrived on the scene and parked his car to provide
protection for Victim from oncoming cars. Mark Moore arrived
next on the scene, finding there was enough light that he
could see the entire road, the surrounding area, and observe
the injured man and horse.
personnel then arrived. Victim had a crushed skull, shattered
wrist, and five or six broken ribs. Poco's numerous
injuries included a broken leg, and he had to be euthanized.
Mr. Rozell gave law enforcement officers a description of the
minivan and the female driver.
call was received at 7:07 p.m. Highway Patrol Trooper Amanda
Kahler ("Trooper Kahler") arrived, just after
sunset, at 7:23 p.m. Headlights were still not necessary to
see. She found a 21-foot skid mark, streaks of horse manure
where it appeared the horse had been dragged by the vehicle,
some scraps of silver or gray paint, and the passenger-side
rearview mirror from a vehicle. The debris trail was
approximately 104 feet long.
after ten that evening, Defendant contacted the police.
Trooper Kahler was dispatched to Defendant's home.
Defendant told Trooper Kahler she had hit an animal in the
area but until she saw a story on the ten o'clock news
about a horse and rider being hit, she did not realize she
might have been the driver in that accident. There was a
silver Dodge Caravan parked in the driveway. The minivan had
suffered extensive damage. The passenger-side rear view
mirror was missing. The passenger side of the front
windshield was shattered and protruded into the vehicle.
There was horse hair, blood, flesh, and manure all over the
minivan, including a chunk of flesh stuck in the luggage rack
on the top of the vehicle. The headlight assembly was broken,
and the fender had been torn away. A portion of the
horse's tail was stuck in the headlight assembly. There
was broken glass and manure inside the passenger compartment
of the vehicle as well.
Kahler found a dish cloth in the headlight assembly. When she
inquired of Defendant, Defendant said she had tried to wipe
off the vehicle when she got home. Defendant said there was
"horse hair and tissue and blood all over" and that
"it was disgusting." At that point, Trooper Kahler
asked Defendant if she had been drinking, and Defendant
stated she had two beers at around 2:30 in the afternoon.
Defendant showed one indicator of intoxication on the
horizontal gaze nystagmus test and smelled faintly of
alcohol. Defendant began to cry and said she had hit a horse.
Defendant said "she never did see a rider" and gave
no explanation for why she did not stop.
was charged with second-degree assault and leaving the scene
of a motor vehicle accident. Defendant had a jury trial on
April 13 through 15, 2015. The State adduced the evidence
adduced evidence that deer-vehicle collisions were common and
that "colliding with a deer can cause serious property
damage to a vehicle." Then Defendant testified that at
the time of the collision it was dark and she had her
headlights on. She heard a "loud thump" and looked
back to see what she had hit, but did not see anything. She
assumed she had hit a deer and continued driving. She
testified she did not realize she had hit a horse and rider
until she saw the story on the ten o'clock news.
jury found Defendant guilty, and the trial court sentenced
her as a prior offender to five years' imprisonment for
second-degree assault and four years' imprisonment for