A Stevensville woman already convicted of negligent homicide in the death of a well-known Bitterroot Valley animal advocate faces new charges that she was driving impaired when she allegedly caused a head-on collision on the Eastside Highway in June.
Meggie Jean Morgan, 30, appeared Friday before Ravalli County Justice Jim Bailey on a felony count of negligent vehicular assault and misdemeanor charges of operating a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana and failure to have liability insurance.
According to Deputy County Attorney Angela Wetzsteon’s charging affidavit, the accident in this case occurred on June 15, at about 3:15 p.m., on the Eastside Highway in Ravalli County.
Both drivers had to be extricated from their vehicles by emergency workers.
When the investigating Montana Highway Patrol trooper arrived on the scene, he found a Toyota Tundra on its top blocking the northbound lane. The vehicle’s driver had been suspended upside down by her seat belt following the crash, where she remained for almost 15 minutes while first responders cut her loose.
When the trooper spoke with the woman, she said she was driving and looked down in the cab of her truck for a moment. When she looked back up, she said Morgan’s vehicle was right in front of her, leaving her no time to react.
Morgan’s vehicle was found on the east side of the roadway. It had come to rest on the walking path. Morgan was transported to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.
Another trooper talked with Morgan at the hospital. The affidavit said Morgan told him she remembered going through the roundabout on the Eastside Highway, but didn’t remember anything after that.
Morgan said she had been in Missoula at a doctor’s office where she was attempting to have her blood tested to see if she was pregnant. After deciding the wait was too long, she said she left the office, went to a store and then drove back to Ravalli County and eventually the Eastside Highway.
Morgan’s blood had been drawn at the hospital for treatment of the injuries she sustained in the crash. The Montana Highway Patrol obtained a sample after acquiring a subpoena.
The analysis indicated that at the time of the blood draw, Morgan had 11 NG/ML of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) and Benadryl in her bloodstream.
Morgan was on probation for the negligent homicide and other felonies that occurred while she was driving while under the influence of marijuana two years ago.
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On Sept. 27, 2015, Morgan was involved in an accident that killed 64-year-old Judy Paul, a well-known Bitterroot Valley animal advocate.
Paul was driving two Labrador puppies to her canine rescue home near Corvallis when Morgan drove through a stop sign at the intersection of South Kootenai Road and U.S. Highway 93. Paul and one of the puppies died in the crash.
At the time of the accident, Morgan had her three children in the car.
A test following that accident found that Morgan had THC in her bloodstream. Morgan used medical marijuana to treat pain from an earlier vehicle accident.
In June 2016, Morgan pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, three counts of felony criminal endangerment and misdemeanor cruelty to animals.
Following a tearful sentencing hearing that included supportive testimony from her family and friends, Ravalli County District Judge James Haynes imposed a deferred six-year sentence, which meant her record would have remained clean if she had followed the conditions set by the court.
Those conditions included 1,000 hours of community service that required Morgan to tell others about how her life had been changed since the crash that killed Paul.
At the sentencing, Haynes told Morgan that her story could have an impact on young drivers, but for that to happen, she needed to quit saying that she didn’t remember driving through the stop sign.
“Quit making excuses for your behavior,” Haynes said in 2016. “You need to own it. You need to own it in order to send the right message.”
Wetzsteon asked Friday for a high bond amount “based on the fact that defendant (Morgan) is currently on probation for driving while under the influence of marijuana in which she caused a fatality, and because the circumstances of this offense are almost identical.”
Bailey set bond at $25,000.