A number of factors convinced a judge that the North Dakota man charged with aggravated vehicular homicide acted recklessly and should face District Court. The defendant’s alleged consumption of “Scooby Snax” was one of them.

Ryan M. Nordstrom appeared in Natrona County Circuit Court on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing to establish whether his actions warranted a felony charge.

On Oct. 20, officials say Nordstrom’s Chevrolet Cruze rear-ended a U-Haul trailer being towed by a Ford pickup while both vehicles were southbound on Interstate 25, north of Bar Nunn. The impact caused the pickup to cross into the oncoming lane and flip over. The wreck killed 27-year-old Daniel Barto, who was moving his family from Montana to Texas.  

At Nordstrom’s hearing, the state first called David Hulshizer, a deputy with the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, who relayed what several witnesses said about Nordstrom’s driving and demeanor after the crash.

Hulshizer said witnesses described the defendant as driving recklessly just minutes before the crash, almost running into one vehicle and cutting off another. They additionally said he was very “lethargic” after the crash, one commenting that it seemed Nordstrom had just “come out of a very deep sleep.”

Upon Assistant District Attorney Dan Itzen’s questioning, the deputy also said that several packages of “Scooby Snax,” a synthetic marijuana, were found in the vehicle.

However, Nordstrom’s attorney, Kurt Infanger, argued that the substance has not been proven to be illegal, and in fact advertises that it is legal in all 50 states. Hulshizer conceded that he did not know whether the substance was illegal, saying that would have to be determined in the lab.  

The state additionally called Jason Sawdon, a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper and crash scene investigator, to the stand. Sawdon stated that one-half second before impact, Nordstrom’s vehicle was at 100 percent throttle.

Itzen said this reinforced what witnesses had already told officers — that his driving behavior was reckless and “there was simply no braking applied at all to this vehicle.”

Infanger argued that since the charge depends exclusively on whether his client's actions were reckless, the state had an extreme burden to meet in order to establish probable cause.

“Mere speed alone is not enough to call it reckless,” he said, adding that his client could have nodded off from a lack of sleep or just been distracted.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Patchen agreed with the state and said that a combination of the speed, a lack of sleep, and the defendant’s consumption of a substance that he knew to cause drowsiness were enough for the state to meet its burden. He agreed to bind the case over to District Court.

Nordstrom’s parents sat in on the hearing, and asked Patchen to allow their son to come home with them to Michigan to await trial. Patchen permitted it, but ordered the defendant submit to daily urinalyses and to not leave the house without the company of a parent.

“I don’t take this lightly, and I hope you don’t either,” he told Nordstrom’s mother and father. “He’s on a very short leash.”

Reach crime reporter Megan Cassidy at 307-266-0534 or megan.cassidy@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @meganrcassidy.

(6) comments

MTNRATTLESNAKE

"Nordstrom’s attorney, Kurt Infanger, argued that the substance has not been proven to be illegal, and in fact advertises that it is legal in all 50 states." True according to the package, but it also stated that it is NOT FOR HUMAN COMSUMPTION, and printed exactly like typed and in bold letters. It is also not to be burnt, smoked or incinerated.
If it is legal in all 50 states, then why on Sept. 9th did the Chicago Police Seize $265,000 worth of Synthetic Marijuana In 'Scooby Snax' Packaging?
It will be interesting on what chemicals and components are used to produce this crap when the crime lab does their work up on this stuff, and how many fall under this list chemical/components that are listed as illegal by the DEA &/or DCI as illegal.
This guy knew what this stuff would do to him, knowingly drove under the influence of a altering substance and needs to face up to not only what he did, but what he did to this family that is now without a husband and a father to a 2year old and a 1 year old.
I might be considered a A$$H__E for this comment, but I think that due to what he did and I believe knowingly did. That he should have to provide some financial support for those kids until they are age 18. But I also think that this should be the case for anyone that is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs that kills someone with children.

Spring Chick

MTNRATTLESNAKE, I commend you for speaking out. I like your idea that he should contribute financial support for all 3 children.

Panhead

I am not condoning Nordstrom's actions, but Sheriff Hulshizer can not relay what witnesses saw. as he did not witness the incident himself. That is whats considered hearsay evidence and is not admisible in a court of law. Even if he is a sheriff and an invesigater in the incident.

brendo
brendo

Whether or not the substance is "illegal" is not a relevant point. The fact is synthetic marihuana is a "psychoactive substance" and to drive while under it's influence is illegal. If someone is killed as a result of that action, aggrevated vehiclular manslaughter applies.

A special corner of hell is waiting for Mr Nordstrom.

Spring Chick

I just came from the Rosary for Daniel Barto. His eight month pregnant wife and two children along with his brother and parents are now facing life without Daniel. His little girl was walking up the aisle asking where her daddy was. Meanwhile the killer is at home with his parents. I pray that justice will be served.

keweenawgirl

When i heard of this horrific accident, it didn't shock me one bit. He drives crazy and has for quite some time. I remember hearing his name and thought to myself, thats the kid that used to drive like a Ass--- by my house all the time. Its just a shame that someone had to die because some people never learn or think about anything or anyone but themselves.

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