FARMINGTON - A state district court judge has dismissed the criminal case against a man accused of killing one Aztec High School teacher and seriously injuring another in a vehicle crash in July 2019.
The defendant's attorney argued that speeding alone was not enough to constitute reckless driving. The district attorney's office will file an appeal to the judge's decision.
Christopher Middlebrook, 26, had third-degree felony counts of homicide by vehicle (reckless driving) and great bodily harm by vehicle (reckless driving) dismissed by Chief District Court Judge Curtis Gurley during a Nov. 5 court hearing in Aztec District Court.
Middlebrook was charged in connection to the July 17, 2019, death of Aztec High School English teacher Amy Huaman and severely injuring AHS English teacher Cynthia Mortensen in a vehicle crash, according to The Daily Times archives.
Shellie Patscheck, Middlebrook's attorney, told The Daily Times the judge did the right thing based on the law.
"We believe that the case had to be dismissed based on the statute for reckless driving," Patscheck said. "The facts aren't sufficient to meet that standard."
San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien told The Daily Times the DA's office will appeal the dismissal of the case.
"The state's position is that this was more than just speeding. This was reckless driving, because, in part, the speed wasn't just excessive. It was extreme," O'Brien said.
Patscheck said she and her client are confident that the dismissal will be upheld if appealed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.
The arrest warrant affidavit alleges Middlebrook was driving extremely fast southbound on U.S. Highway 550 near the Cedar Hill area.
Middlebrook is then accused of crashing a Kia Soul into the back of the Scion occupied by Huaman and Mortensen.
Huaman, the driver of the Scion, died at the scene and Mortensen was flown from the scene due to her injuries.
The New Mexico State Police reconstruction unit alleged Middlebrook was driving around 101 to 102 mph in a 65-mph speed limit zone.
"I believe it was an avoidable crash had Middlebrook been traveling at the posted speed limit of 65 MPH," the affidavit stated.
The Nov. 5 hearing was held regarding a Sept. 30 motion Middlebrook filed to dismiss the case.
In the motion, he argued the facts of the case did not meet the charges he was facing.
The motion also argued that speeding by itself was not enough to constitute reckless driving, adding there must be additional conduct to give cause for the action's to be classified as reckless.
The Oct. 15 response by the prosecution argues speeding could constitute recklessness if speeding created a danger for others and additional conduct establishes a driver was willfully disregarding the safety of others.
The prosecution also argued Middlebrook did not adjust his speeding, initially tried to pass the victims rather than slow down and waited 4.5 seconds to begin braking hard, according to court documents.
"Defendant's actions before, during and after the crash showed a complete disregard for the safety of others," the prosecution wrote.
The prosecution has until Nov. 22 to file its appeal to the dismissal of the case, O'Brien said.
Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article originally appeared on Farmington Daily Times: Case dismissed for man accused of killing Aztec High teacher in crash