A Kalispell woman accused of running over an 89-year-old man in the street last fall has pleaded no contest to the offense.
Heidi Marie Long, 46, entered the plea to one misdemeanor count of careless driving involving death or serious injury Monday morning in Kalispell Municipal Court.
According to a report by Kalispell Police Officer Jason Parce, Long was driving north on First Avenue West when she struck and severely injured William “Bumps” Winter at about 8:12 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, as he attempted to cross the street in the crosswalk at the intersection of First Street West.
Winter died the next day at Kalispell Regional Medical Center.
Also part of Parce’s report was an eyewitness statement by William Sirl, who said he saw the Long’s vehicle hit Winter without slowing or braking and he saw Winter “roll off” Long’s vehicle. Also, the incident was partially captured by video surveillance from a nearby business.
Long avoided jail time with the plea agreement, but she was sentenced to six months deferred, with 30 days of formal house arrest. She also must pay of fine of $1,500. If Long remains law abiding in the next six months, the charge will be dismissed from her record.
“Good luck and I hope I don’t see you again,” Municipal Court Judge Lori K. Adams said to Long.
Long’s attorney Sean Hinchey replied “You won’t, your honor.”
Adams also addressed members of Winters’ family, saying “nothing can bring back your father, but this is the resolution that has been agreed upon.
“I’m not 100 percent in favor of this agreement, but I’ve known both attorneys in this case a long time and I’ll trust their judgment,” Adams said. “But we can’t forget that this is a serious offense and a man’s life was taken.”
Long initially accepted a plea agreement March 21 from the Kalispell City Attorney’s office. The deal indicated Long would plead guilty, pay a $2,500 fine and receive a one-day deferred sentence.
But, according to Lori Nelson, one of three daughters of Winter who wanted to see Long prosecuted for their father’s death, said Judge Adams didn’t accept the plea agreement because jail time wasn’t included.
Adams said that because the plea agreement wasn’t what the family was in favor of, namely jail time, she rejected it.
“The family wanted some jail time, even just one day, and because the plea agreement called for one day deferred, I didn’t think it was appropriate,” Adams previously said.
After the plea deal was rejected, Long changed her plea to not guilty. A jury trial was scheduled for July, but later negotiations resulted in the plea agreement.
“I don’t know if it’s fair, but we needed closure,” Nelson said. “This has been going on for nearly a year. I still don’t understand how the county attorney, city attorney could have so much sympathy for her. It was too much.”
The family believed the sympathy they thought Long received was due to the fact one of her grandchildren had died in a vehicle mishap earlier this winter.
“But it still didn’t mean that she should have received the treatment she did,” Winter’s daughter Tammy Bohland said. “She made a lot of excuses, changed her story. It wasn’t a victimless crime.
“It shouldn’t be that hard to get a little justice.” Bohland said.
Johnna Preble, the assistant city attorney prosecuting the case, previously acknowledged the tragedy.
“It’s a terrible thing that happened and we try to take the family’s thoughts into consideration, but at the same time, we can’t let emotion rule what we are trying to do,” Preble said.
Long was required to register with Compliance Monitoring as of 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, as part of her house arrest.
Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 758-4441 or email@example.com.