Following a preliminary hearing on Thursday morning, a Logan County judge found probable cause that a crime was committed by a Guthrie woman. She is now set to stand trial for the death of a friend following a vehicle accident in 2014.
Special Judge Susan Worthington heard testimony inside the courtroom in the State’s case against Paige Powell, 23, of Guthrie. Powell has been charged with manslaughter in the first degree following a fiery car accident that killed 24-year-old Maryah Sanchez.
Powell was supported by an estimated 25 family and friends inside the courtroom, while Sanchez’s family was represented with approximately 10 friends and family members.
A preliminary hearing is an evidentiary or probable cause proceeding, after a criminal complaint has been filed by the prosecutor, to determine whether there is enough evidence to require a trial.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Terry Hinkle and a State’s expert witness took the stand in the hearing, which took approximately two hours.
On Feb. 9, 2014, Powell was driving back to Guthrie, along with Sanchez, from Stillwater in her 2013 Dodge Charger southbound on Highway 77 in the early morning hours.
According to a probable cause affidavit, while at the scene near County Road 70 in Mulhall, Powell told Trooper Hinkle she noticed a deer standing in the roadway and swerved to the right to avoid contact. In doing so, the vehicle departed the roadway to the right, striking a tree and catching fire. Powell was able to escape the smoke and flames, but Sanchez, the passenger, was unable to do so and died at the scene just before 5 a.m.
Powell pleaded not guilty back in March to the manslaughter charge of driving under the influence, or in the alternative driving while impaired. If found guilty, the crime is punishable by imprisonment for not less than four years.
Hinkle, who was dispatched to the scene at 4:57 a.m., reports during his initial interview with Powell, he noted an odor of alcohol on her breath. Powell stated, “I’ll admit I’ve had five beers.”
The trooper further stated, Powell gave no other indications of being intoxicated. She was later taken to a hospital for a blood draw, which occurred at 8:30 a.m. and was later released on her own. Related article: Guthrie woman charged with manslaughter following 2014 deadly car crash
The expert witness testified for both the State and defense attorney on various topics dealing with alcohol, including absorption rate and other variables dealing with blood and alcohol.
In the affidavit, the trooper said he received the results of the blood draw on April 29, 2014, which showed Powell’s blood alcohol content (BAC) of .038 percent.
Oklahoma driving under the influence (DUI) laws prohibit the use of a vehicle with a BAC of .08 or higher. Motorists are considered driving while impaired (DWI) if found driving with a BAC between 0.05 percent and .08 percent.
Following the hearing, Powell’s attorney, Scott Adams, quickly made his way to reporters in the courthouse hallway and spoke briefly.
“We just want to get the case to trial,” Adams said. “It’s a tragic deal and everyone hates it. I don’t think there’s any evidence that was presented today that Ms. Powell did anything inappropriate. We’ll deal with it in trial.”
Powell is expected back in the courtroom on Aug. 5.