Marion County judge dismisses case in fatal New Year’s Eve accident

MARION COUNTY — A Marion County judge dismissed a charge of aggravated reckless driving against a rural Kell man charged in connection with a fatal 2013 New Years Eve accident that claimed the life of his then 16-year-old passenger.

Matthew David Evans was facing 2-5 years in prison on the felony charge that he caused the death of 16-year old Trent Wheeler.

After testimony Wednesday from multiple Marion County Sheriff’s deputies and Coroner Troy Cannon, along with the prosecution’s presentation of evidence, Resident Judge Mark Stedelin granted defense attorney Bill Milner’s motion for a directed verdict in the Wednesday bench trial, dismissing the felony charge against Evans.

According to accident reports, Evans was driving a car on the Tonti Road just west of Winegarner Road in rural Odin when as he was trying to negotiate a curve reportedly left the road at a high rate of speed and struck a tree.

Wheeler, of Salem, was pronounced dead on the scene from multiple blunt force trauma. Evans was airlifted from the scene to a St. Louis Hospital for treatment.

Marion County State’s Attorney Matt Wilzbach said after the accident that he was blocked by Barnes Hospital from obtaining the results of any blood samples that would have indicated if drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident.

Milner notes the defense team played no role in blocking those results, but there was no evidence indicating drug or alcohol use that night, and deputies even said they did not smell alcohol or have any suspicion of alcohol or drug use, so there was no probable cause.