Judge sets vehicular homicide suspect's bail at $50,000

Staff writerMarch 11, 2014 

A vehicular homicide suspect is accused of driving drunk when he crashed his Jeep Cherokee into a tree in the Sunwood Lakes development southeast of Lacey Monday night, partially ejecting his passenger and resulting in the man's death, court papers state.

A judge found probable cause to order the suspect, Ryan Cughan, 36, of Olympia, held at the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of vehicular homicide during a court hearing Tuesday.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Anne Hirsch set Cughan's bail at $50,000.

The deceased 49-year-old male passenger in Cughan's Jeep died Monday night at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Thurston County Sheriff's Lt. Greg Elwin said Tuesday that the sheriff's office will not release the man's name until his next-of-kin is notified.

During Tuesday's court hearing, Cughan's court-appointed attorney, Deborah Murphy, said that Cughan currently takes medication for some kind of mental health issue. Murphy did not state, however, whether he was under the influence of this medication at the time of the crash Monday night.

According to court papers:

Sheriff's deputies and emergency personnel were dispatched to the crash about 8:25 Monday night in the 7600 block of Thru Lake Drive SE in the Sunwood Lakes Development.

A Jeep Cherokee being driven by Cughan was in a ditch, with the front end up against a tree when first responders arrived. A nurse was on scene tending to the passenger, who was later airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The nurse told a deputy that the driver of the Jeep, later identified as Cughan, was alert, but complaining of pain. The passenger was unconscious. The deputy spoke to the driver, and immediately noticed a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. He told one deputy he had had three beers before driving, and later stated he drank about a beer and a half.

While Cughan was being transported to an area hospital for minor injuries, the deputy told him he was under arrest for DUI. The deputy then applied for and was granted a search warrant to take a blood draw from Cughan.

The deputy reported that Cughan was slurring his words, and "seemed very nonchalant about the situation, almost like he did not understand the severity of the situation," court papers state.

Cughan was discharged from the hospital Monday night and was taken to the Thurston County Jail, where was later booked for vehicular homicide, after detectives learned that the passenger had died. When a detective explained again to Cughan what had happened, he "finally seemed to grasp the severity of the situation and started tearing up and asked if he could have a minute."



Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445; jpawloski@theolympian.com

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