Juneau police say they are treating their investigation into a deadly car crash that claimed the life of a Juneau teen as a homicide investigation.
Lt. David Campbell, a spokesman for the Juneau Police Department, said that’s the mindset JPD is taking as they decide whether to forward charges against an 18-year-old driver who crashed a Honda CRV into a semi-truck at the intersection of Yandukin Drive and Old Dairy Road on March 26.
“You investigate it as though it’s a homicide until you prove otherwise,” Campbell said in a phone interview Tuesday, noting JPD is working closely with the Juneau District Attorney’s Office.
He added, “Whenever we’re dealing with an unattended death — and that’s what this is, an unattended death — we take the mindset that we’re dealing with a homicide because we make sure that we do everything we’re supposed to do, as though we’re dealing with a criminal act. ... By taking the stance that you’re dealing with a homicide, it makes sure that we do the most thorough job possible.”
The crash killed one of the Honda’s two passengers instantly, 18-year-old Jessica Louise Billy, who was a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School. The other passenger, Billy’s 20-year-old boyfriend, Shadd Rudick, was left in critical condition. He was medevaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
The 18-year-old driver, whose name is being withheld by police, was released from Bartlett Regional Hospital the same day of the crash, presumably with relatively minor injuries. The 45-year-old driver of the semi was unharmed, police said.
Police have cleared the driver of the 1999 International diesel semi-truck of any wrongdoing, Campbell said.
“We’re not investigating the driver of the semi-truck because he had the right of way,” Campbell said.
Police have determined the 18-year-old driver of the Honda was at fault, Campbell said. Police said he was traveling southbound on Yandukin when he attempted to turn left on Old Dairy Road. But he did not yield to oncoming traffic and turned in front of the semi-truck, which T-boned the Honda, police said.
Police have not yet speculated about the cause of the crash, whether it be driver inattention, alcohol or drug-related, or just simply a poor split-second decision.
“Given the ongoing nature of the investigation, I can’t comment (on the cause of the crash),” Campbell said. “We were able to determine it was a left-hand turn without yielding to oncoming traffic, but why that left-hand turn occurred is what we’re still looking into.”
Police have not said if they suspect driver impairment, but it is something they are investigating to be thorough, Campbell said. Police obtained a search warrant to do a blood draw on the 18-year-old driver to test for the presence of drugs or alcohol, but that’s common in fatal car crash investigations, Campbell said. The toxicology reports won’t be back for another four to six weeks, he added.
Police obtained three other search warrants in the case, according to Campbell: one to search the Honda, one to search the driver of the Honda, and one to search the driver’s medical records. Police have seized 21 items pursuant to the search warrants, Campbell said. Again citing the ongoing investigation, Campbell said he was unable to say what was seized.
Juneau District Attorney James Scott said Tuesday during a brief phone interview that he could not comment on anything that may influence a future case.