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UPDATE: Vehicular Homicide Case

Submitted by Newsroom on November 15, 2012 – 1:56 pmNo Comment

SCHOOL BUS DEATH, Midday Broadcast, Nov. 15, 2012

In Lander, defense questions school bus visibility

Staff and wire reports

RIVERTON, Wyo. – The attorney for a man accused of hitting a girl with his vehicle after she got off a school bus last December is raising questions about the visibility of the bus.

William Dean Barnes is on trial in Lander for vehicular homicide in the death of 11-year-old MaKayla Marie Strahle of Crowheart.

The school bus had its lights flashing, according to testimony, but there was fog at the time.

In opening arguments, defense attorney Devon Petersen said Barnes did not know the vehicle ahead of him was a bus until he hit the girl. After the incident, he claims he asked bus driver Fred Peterson why a strobe light on the roof was not activated. The bus driver did not think the fog was thick enough.

The girl’s step-father Dan Sperry, who was a Fremont County sheriff’s deputy at the time of the incident, did not directly answer whether he was upset with how she was dropped off, but said he’d definitely change the procedure.

BARNES TRIAL, Morning News at 8, Nov. 15, 2012

Barnes trial gets underway

By KVOW/KTAK News Director Leslie Stratmoen

LANDER, Wyo. – This week’s trial for a Lander man charged with vehicular homicide in the death of a girl from Crowheart is expected to wrap by Friday. William Dean Barnes has been charged with both felony aggravated homicide and misdemeanor homicide by vehicle as well as lesser charges that include speeding and passing a stopped school bus.

Makayla Marie Strahle

He’s accused of hitting and killing 11-year-old Makayla Marie Strahle as she crossed the highway heading for home after getting off of her school bus.

In Wednesday’s opening statements, already published, the prosecutor painted the accused man as negligent and reckless, while the defense attorney described him as a man who obeyed the laws and was devastated by the incident.

Fremont County’s Deputy Attorney Kathy Kavanagh claims the accused was driving too fast for the foggy conditions and did not slow down for the bus, which had its warning lights flashing. It was just before 7 on Dec. 20 of last year. She said the girl was standing next to a “huge yellow bus” with flashing lights under a streetlight near her own driveway and was hit so fast, her neck was broken instantly.

Barnes defense attorney said his client did not know he was approaching a school bus. But did slow down for what he thought was a large vehicle turning into a residence because porch lights were lit on both sides of the road. The defense attorney went on to say Barnes was sober and stayed on the scene to answer questions and cooperated with the investigation.

The first witness to take the stand was the girl’s step-father, Dan Sperry, who was a Sheriff’s Deputy for Fremont County at the time of the incident. He was home that night, waiting for his daughter to be dropped off by the activities bus after a dance when he heard a loud thump that sounded like a hood slamming or a ball being bounced off a hood. Then there was a knock on his door from one of his daughter’s classmates saying there’d been an accident. He found his daughter in the borrow ditch, motionless, lying on her side with an apparent broken leg and bleeding. He said he knew she was dead.

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