Breckenridge liquor store clerks cited for selling to Lindsey Ward
BRECKENRIDGE — Two liquor store employees have been charged with selling alcohol to Lindsey Ward while she was allegedly visibly impaired, minutes before she caused a fatal crash on Colorado Highway 9 while driving drunk last year.
Avran Lefeber, 37, and Cody Moral, 25, have been charged with selling alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, after a witness told investigators that the men acknowledged that Ward was inebriated, offered to drive her home and still sold her alcohol when she refused.
At about 5:15 p.m. on Aug. 30 last year, Ward was involved in a two-vehicle car crash on Highway 9 north of Blue River after swerving into the wrong lane and into another car, killing 41-year-old Benjamin Mitton and 43-year-old Nichole Gough.
Toxicology reports from the Colorado State Patrol showed that Ward’s blood alcohol level was well above the legal limit of 0.08 at the time of the crash, testing at 0.242 blood alcohol content almost two hours after the incident.
In April, Ward pleaded guilty to two counts of felony vehicular homicide-DUI. Though, an investigation launched late last year by the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Liquor Enforcement Division is providing new insights into the string of events leading up to the crash.
According to the report, Ward was hanging out at the Breckenridge Golf Course clubhouse restaurant earlier that day, where video surveillance showed that she had several drinks between 2:20 and 4:45 p.m. Investigators noted that there wasn’t any evidence that Ward was overly-intoxicated in the footage, and golf course employees said she didn’t exhibit any signs of drunkenness in subsequent interviews.
Ward left the golf course and drove to Breckenridge Market & Liquor, arriving about 15 minutes later at 5:04 p.m., based on surveillance footage. According to the report, she had a “slight stagger” as she walked into the store, and exhibited signs of intoxication until she left.
Ward came to the counter where Lefeber and Moral were working to buy a 12-pack of beer and a bottle of tequila. According to the report, Ward was having trouble counting out her cash, and “fumbled” some of the bills onto the counter. One of the clerks took the cash from her hand, counted it out for her and returned change.
A witness who was in line behind Ward at the store said the men appeared to know her, and referred to her by her first name. The witness also told investigators that Ward was slurring her words, and felt that Lefeber and Moral knew she was inebriated, and repeatedly asked her to park her car so they could give her a ride home. Ward declined, and left with the alcohol.
The witness finished her purchase, and ended up on the road behind Ward, noting that she was weaving all over the road before the crash. The liquor Ward purchased from the store was discovered unopened after the crash.
The Department of Revenue investigation also included notes from Lefeber and Moral based on the Colorado State Patrol’s report of the incident. Moral told investigators that Ward didn’t look “plastered,” but that he could tell she had been drinking. He also said Ward wasn’t slurring her words or stumbling at the time of the purchase.
Ultimately, investigators believed there was probable cause to show that Ward was visibly over intoxicated when the men served her. Lefeber and Moral were charged with misdemeanors as a result of the allegation. Both are scheduled to appear for hearings in Summit County court on June 10.
“Liquor stores are regulated businesses, and they sell a product which if not handled appropriately could be dangerous,” District Attorney Bruce Brown said. “If you sell liquor to an obviously intoxicated person it’s predictable that person could harm themselves or others. That’s the purpose of the prosecution, holding accountable the people who don’t follow the rules of a highly regulated business and deterring others from ignoring the law.
“If we don’t enforce the regulatory laws on liquor stores then 16-year-old kids or obviously intoxicated people can walk into a store and buy without any sense of repercussion. … In this case it wasn’t speculative harm. People died. And because of the fact that there was a witness who was aware of the accident and the shady transaction, this is going to be treated seriously by our office.”
Of note, investigators determined there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest the golf course restaurant served Ward while she was visibly intoxicated. Similarly, Brown said investigators also looked into the broader conduct of Breckenridge Market & Liquor to determine if the store was “turning a blind eye,” but that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to conclude the store was facilitating the clerks’ alleged behavior.
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