Vincent trial set for Aug. 5

Kincannon upholds Murder 2 charge

by C.F. David

F amily and friends of the late Brandon Abrahamson wiped tears and defendant Stephanie Ann Vincent sat with downcast eyes as Associate District Judge Ron Kincannon announced that the charge of Murder in the Second Degree remained against Vincent.

Abrahamson died in a one vehicle traffic accident early on New Year's morning. Vincent was the driver, and charged with murder for “an imminently dangerous act.”

The accident occurred in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, some five miles west and 11.6 miles north of Boise City on a county road that crosses the Vincent Ranch.

Vincent was behind the wheel of her 2003 Chevrolet pickup when it overturned in a curve and rolled into a ravine, pinning Abramhamson underneath. Vincent's preliminary trial before Kincannon began on June 21 and was continued on June 22 when one defense witness could not appear.

Anthony Hernandez, the passenger with Vincent on Jan. 1, was the first of several witnesses brought by the state and questioned first by District Attorney Mike Boring.

Under questioning from Boring, Hernandez testified on Monday, June 21, that he and Abrahamson had arrived at the Vincents' “River House” northwest of Boise City just about sundown on Dec. 31, 2003. He testified that they had been invited out to the ranch to ride four-wheelers and motorcycles.

Hernandez testified that they met Vincent and Cory Ottinger at the home and that he [Hernandez] had brought a case of Bud Light beer.

Hernandez then testified that he, Abrahamson, Vincent and Ottinger went into the home where they played cards and drank hard liquor or beer until after midnight. Hernandez testified he had drank at least a 12-pack of beer himself and that Vincent had been drinking beer and mixed drinks.

Hernandez then testified that while Ottinger was asleep, Vincent, Hernandez and Abrahamson, rode two four-wheelers down the road until they met a pickup on its way into the ranch.

Vincent followed the vehicle back to the ranch and found it being driven by John Patrick Bourke; and occupied by Travis Gray, a former boyfriend.

Hernandez then testified that a short argument ensued between Gray and Vincent, before the two men drove away.

According to Hernandez' testimony, with himself and Abramhamson as passengers, Vincent drove at a high rate of speed to overtake Bourke and Gray at speeds he estimated to be 70 to 75 miles per hour over dirt roads and cattle guards.

“Every once in a while, she'd slow for the curves; but not the cattle guards,” Hernandez said. He then testified that Vincent overtook Bourke's pickup and began to tailgate the vehicle and that he [Hernandez] told her she “...needed to quit.”

Bourke then testified that while Vincent tailgated his truck he estimated his speed at 97 and that he “...couldn't see her headlights.”

Bourke and Gray both admitted to having drank at a party earlier, but denied being drunk.

Then according to testimony from Bourke and Gray, Vincent passed them in the right bar ditch and pulled across the road to stop them, where an argument again flared between Gray and Vincent.

In cross-examination Defense Attorney Craig Rittenhouse asked Bourke and Gray if they had removed a sign from the ranch; Gray admitted that he had knocked the sign down and placed it in the back of Bourke's pickup. Rittenhouse then accused the two men of running from Vincent because they had committed an act of vandalism.

D.A. Mike Boring redirected by asking Gray if Vincent had seen them take the sign, he answered, “No.”

Judge Kincannon had earlier admonished Bourke that having admitted to an offense he could be charged with a criminal act, he didn't have to answer any incriminating inquiries.

Gray, when asked by Rittenhouse why he tore the sign down admitted only to being angry about how Vincent had ended their relationship.

“I'm not very proud of it,” Gray said.

“Do you conduct yourself like that when you're sober,” Rittenhouse asked.

“No.” Gray responded.

“Is it fair to say you were intoxicated?” Rittenhouse asked.

“I don't know,” Gray answered.

Hernandez testified that while Vincent was outside the vehicle he slid into the driver's seat, intending to drive. However, upon returning to the vehicle Vincent insisted on driving.

Hernandez testified that Vincent obeyed all traffic laws while within the city limits.

According to testimony given by Connie Wood, a clerk at Loaf-n-Jug, Vincent entered the store at about 2:30 a.m wanting to buy beer. Wood refused, and Vincent bought instead, a tin of smokeless tobacco.

Wood also testified that Vincent did not appear to be drunk, wasn't upset by not getting the beer and that, she [Wood] hadn't smelled any alcohol.

According to testimony given by Hernandez, Vincent began driving fast once she left the city limits.

Hernandez then testified that Vincent, though speeding, had frequently “tapped the brakes” though the truck fishtailed through the curves and that he and Abramhamson had said nothing during the return trip to the ranch.

He then testified that Vincent said “Oh crap, I'm going too fast,” as the pickup entered the curve at the accident scene. The truck overturned, rolled down an embankment and settled into a ravine with Abramhamson underneath. It was about 3:25 a.m.

In searching for Abramhamson, Hernandez testified, that he found his friend under the vehicle, pinned from the waist up, and attempted to lift the pickup as Vincent sat nearby with a broken arm.

Vincent then inquired about Abramhamson's location and he told her he was pinned underneath the pickup's cab.

Hernandez then helped Vincent to her feet and they began to walk to the river house, about four miles away.

“She asked me if I was mad at her,” Hernandez testified.

“She told me that ‘She'd never killed anyone before,' ” Hernandez added.

Hernandez then testified that upon their reaching the ranch house it was almost daylight and they awakened Ottinger, told him of the accident and he called the sheriff's dispatcher; it was 5:37 a.m.; by 5:52 an ambulance was in route.

Sheriff David Dunn arrived at the accident scene at about 6 a.m. and found after a check, an individual pinned under the truck. Checking for a pulse, Dunn found what he described as “...a very cold body.”

Dunn then testified that Vincent's speech did not appear to be slurred.

Soon fire fighters, EMTs and Trooper Boyd Perry, with the Oklahoma Highway patrol arrived at the scene.

Vincent was then transported to Cimarron Memorial Hospital, with her arm in a splint; she arrived at 7:07 a.m..

Trooper Perry had given possession of an investigative blood kit to one of the EMTs; upon arrival at CMH, blood was drawn to check for alcohol in the bloodstream, it came back negative.

Perry asked Vincent, in the course of his investigation how fast she was going when the accident occurred; she estimated 55 MPH.

Initially Vincent had been charged with First Degree Manslaughter, transportation of an open container, transportation of a loaded handgun, reckless driving and DUI. The charges were dismissed without prejudice on Jan. 9 soon after the blood sample was returned as negative for alcohol content.

The new charges of murder in the second degree, transportation of an open container and transportation of a loaded handgun, were brought in mid-March.

Perry, in the course of his investigation had enlisted the aid of Trooper Dave Welch of Troop I's Accident Reconstruction and Investigation Team.

Perry and Welch, estimated Vincent's speed at closer to 65 or 69 miles per hour and that 25 to 30 would have been safe speeds on the curve.

Rittenhouse attacked the investigation, asking Welch about the recently obtained laser mapping technology, Welch's familiarity with the equipment and the number of other accidents investigated with it, (one).

The state rested at 11:20 a.m on Tuesday, June 22.

Rittenhouse called Cimarron County Deputy Derek Kincannon who testified that he was in Loaf-n-Jug on New year's morning and that nothing in Vincent's behavior gave him any indication she might be angry or drunk. He also testified he smelled no alcohol.

Lab Technician Dana Smith testified that she had drawn Vincent's blood, between 7 and 8 a.m. It was, she testified, a procedure with which she was familiar.

On July 2, when court reconvened, Rittenhouse called Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Agent Morgan Wilkinson. Rittenhouse moved to attack a group of photos and corresponding photo log that Wilkinson had taken on Jan. 20.

After a recess of one hour and 15 minutes in which Wilkinson rearranged the photos to match the log, he testified that the log did have errors and that he could not positively identify at least one photo.

Wilkinson also admitted that his interview of Hernandez had been done, was taped, but not yet transcribed.

After closing, Rittenhouse then implored Kincannon to change the charge of Murder in the Second-Degree to negligent homicide.

“The clerk and deputy saw nothing out of the ordinary,” Rittenhouse pointed out.

“They [the state] have not reached the level of second degree, your honor,” Rittenhouse said.

“I'm not saying her conduct wasn't immature. But it doesn't reach the level of murder two.”

Boring insisted that the state had proven its case and argued to keep the charge.

“Operating a vehicle like a guided missile is not negligence. We believe it was murder,” Boring said.

Kincannon agreed, saying that he found that the evidence presented, including testimony about a long night of drinking; was adequate to bring a charge of Second-Degree-Murder. He added that the fact that an open container and a loaded handgun were found in the vehicle, enhanced the proof that killing Abrahamson had been an imminently dangerous act.

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