Liquor store employee convicted for selling to visibly intoxicated Lindsey Ward
A liquor store clerk has been found guilty of selling alcohol to a visibly intoxicated Lindsey Ward minutes before she caused a fatal crash on Colorado Highway 9 last year.
Avran LeFeber, one of two clerks cited in the incident, was convicted of the misdemeanor charge in a written ruling penned by County Judge Edward Casias that was entered into court record Dec. 7. A sentence in the case has not yet been determined.
On Aug. 30, 2019, Ward was driving on Highway 9 near Blue River when she swerved into oncoming traffic and caused a head-on collision with another vehicle. Benjamin Mitton, 41, and Nichole Gough, 43, were killed in the crash.
Ward pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide DUI and was sentenced to 16 years in prison in June.
On the day of the crash, Ward was drinking at the Breckenridge Golf Course before driving to Breckenridge Market and Liquor, where she purchased beer and tequila from LeFeber and his coworker, Cody Moral. The alcohol the clerks sold Ward was found unopened in her car after the crash and wasn’t a contributing factor in Ward’s drunken driving. But an investigation by the Department of Revenue’s Liquor Enforcement Division determined that the clerks likely knew Ward was inebriated at the time of the sale.
Officials held an untraditional court trial for LeFeber’s case last month that was largely reliant on surveillance footage captured inside the liquor store on the day of the crash and witness statements collected during the investigation.
The footage shows Ward enter the store, pick out her items and make her way over to the register. Ward had a brief interaction with LeFeber and Moral, in which the clerks took the cash out of her hand to make appropriate change and gave it back to her.
There was no audio attached to the footage, but an eyewitness inside the store at the same time as Ward told investigators the employees made multiple offers to drive Ward home. The witness also said she believed Ward was drunk at the time.
LeFeber was the only individual to testify during the trial. He said Ward wasn’t exhibiting any signs of being drunk at the time and that he offered to drive her home because she was complaining about being tired after a day of golfing in the sun. He also noted that he would frequently help customers with their cash or credit cards to help keep the line moving at the store.
Casias wasn’t swayed by LeFeber’s testimony. In his written ruling, Casias said he felt prosecutors had conveyed beyond a reasonable doubt that LeFeber and Moral knowingly served a visibly intoxicated person.
Among the more notable segments of the ruling, Casias openly doubted that Ward, who was a professional server at the time of the crash, would be unable to handle her own money unless inebriated.
“Her inability to determine what bills she needed to pay for her purchases shows a diminished capacity,” Casias wrote. “… Ward’s time in the sun and golfing could cause her to be tired, but it is difficult to believe such tiredness would cause her to be unable to determine what bill should be used to pay for her purchases.”
Casias’ ruling also pointed to statements taken immediately following the crash from law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, who reported a strong smell of alcohol while interacting with Ward.
“Experience in life would indicate the odor of alcohol was present during the interaction between Mr. LeFeber, Mr. Moral and Ms. Ward,” Casias wrote. “Such an odor would not magically manifest 15 minutes after she left the store. The finder of fact believes this is one of the major reasons the offer for the ride was offered.”
Of note, Moral was scheduled for a single-day court trial Tuesday, Dec. 8, but the hearing was postponed.
A sentencing hearing on LeFeber’s case has yet to be set.
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