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Alleged drunken driver enters innocent plea

Police also charge 21-year-old woman with three counts of third-degree assault

Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2003

A woman has pleaded innocent to charges she left the scene of an alleged December drunken-driving accident that injured three people. Authorities said Laura Stidolph, 21, got out of her vehicle and ran into oncoming traffic to avoid arrest.

Stidolph pleaded innocent to all charges Monday in Juneau Superior Court. She is charged with three counts of third-degree assault and failing to render assistance following an accident, both felonies. She also was charged with misdemeanor counts of drunken driving, refusal to submit to a breath test, and disorderly conduct.

Prosecutor Doug Gardner presented the state's case in court records.

Around 8 p.m. Dec. 4 police saw a vehicle driving about 75 mph outbound on Egan Drive. Police tried to stop the vehicle, but the driver didn't stop. After a few minutes, police lost track of the vehicle, court records said.

Around 8:20 p.m., police received a report of a multi-vehicle accident near Egan Drive and Vanderbilt Hill involving a "Honda-type" vehicle matching the description of the one they had been following.

According to a police press release at the time, witnesses said they saw a dark-colored vehicle approach the intersection at a high rate of speed and rear-end a Dodge Neon with four occupants, including a toddler and a 1-month-old infant. The Dodge and the dark vehicle then struck a Toyota pickup and a Chevrolet pickup, the release said.

Three of the victims were treated at the scene for minor injuries, and three were taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital for examination. All the victims were released later that night, the release said.

According to court records, Stidolph drove away following the accident. Police located her a short distance from the wreck standing next to her heavily damaged Acura Integra in the median next to Egan.

The records say she told police she hadn't been driving the vehicle and that the driver had "run away." Police said they smelled alcohol on Stidolph and asked her to take a breathalyzer test. She refused, and tried to run across a busy Egan Drive. She fought with officers, who tried to pull her out of the road to keep her from being struck by oncoming traffic.

She was arrested and lodged at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center. She has been out on $5,000 bail since Dec. 6. She was indicted by a Juneau grand jury on Dec. 13.

Stidolph's felony arraignment was delayed because Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks allowed her to go on a planned family vacation to Thailand for three weeks. Her March 17 trial will begin after she returns from a Washington alcohol- and drug-treatment program, which she will enter this week.

If convicted, Stidolph faces up to five years in prison for the assault charges and up to 10 years for failing to give assistance. She faces up to a year in prison for each of the misdemeanors. She also faces more than $160,000 in fines.

Defense attorney Thomas Nave did not return calls made by the Empire for comment.

Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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