Tyler Carter appearing over Zoom for his preliminary hearing.
POCATELLO — The case of a man accused of killing a Pocatello cyclist in a hit-and-run in March will move forward to District Court.
After three days of preliminary hearings spread out over several weeks, Magistrate Judge Aaron Thompson determined Friday that prosecutors have enough probable cause to send Tyler Carter’s case to the higher court.
Carter is charged with felony involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. Investigators said Carter was behind the wheel of a pickup truck when he struck and killed 40-year-old Bobette Wilhelm near Pocatello on March 13. Carter then allegedly fled the scene.
On Friday, Bannock County Deputy Prosecutor Nick Tranmer summarized the evidence presented during the preliminary hearing. Tranmer claimed Carter acted negligently by hitting Wilhelm after smoking marijuana, then leaving her to die on the side of the road without determining what he hit.
At the preliminary hearing, Bannock County Sheriff detectives testified that Carter came to the office to report he had hit a deer at the location where Carter’s body was found. It was after he had seen the story on the news.
Bobette Wilhelm | Courtesy photo
Defense attorney David Martinez said that at the time of the crash, Carter thinking he hit a deer did not obligate him to search more extensively. While Martinez said it’s a horrible incident where a human being lost their life, he said that Carter is not negligent in Wilhelm’s death.
Martinez said that the prosecutors have “possible theories” rather than “probable theories” that do not describe the exact situation that caused Wilhelm’s death. He said it could have been Wilhelm that acted negligently, such as swerving into the road while riding her bike.
“There is no way to know whose mistake this was,” Martinez said. “Ultimately, it was an accident.”
Tranmer argued the theories presented by the state are supported by the evidence found at the scene of the crash. He said the theories were not a shotgun approach to point the finger at Carter, as Martinez argued.
“He left the scene. That’s an unlawful act,” Tranmer said. “A reasonably prudent person would call the police.”
Thompson went on to say that probable cause is not beyond a reasonable doubt as required at a jury trial to convict someone. Prosecutors need only prove probable cause during a preliminary hearing.
During the hearing, Judge Thompson read a statement from Carter that was made while detectives were interviewing him. “Maybe I was a little scared I hit a person, maybe I didn’t want to know,” Carter reportedly said.
In making his findings on the case, Thompson also indicated that Carter had continued to drive at approximately 30 mph with the sun in his eyes blinding him, and that qualifies as inattentive driving. Thompson also said Carter was negligent because he could not see and was driving too fast for the conditions.
Thompson did say failing to provide aid to Wilhelm after the crash did not qualify as involuntary manslaughter in this case. That fact is only applicable to the leaving the scene of an accident charge.
As Carter’s case advanced to the district court, Carter will have to enter a plea again during a new arraignment. Once Carter is arraigned, if he pleads not guilty then a date will be set for a jury trial. If he pleads guilty then the judge would set a date for sentencing.
If convicted of felony involuntary manslaughter Carter could be ordered to spend up to 10 years in prison. Felony leaving the scene of an accident holds up to five years in prison.