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Man charged with vehicular manslaughter after deadly crash

Crime Watch

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ST. ANTHONY — A Pocatello man has been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter after a crash on June 8 near St. Anthony.

Scott M. Roper, 56, was arrested Sunday after Idaho State Police troopers say he caused the crash that killed 73-year-old Joseph Sturgeon, an experienced semi-truck driver. According to an affidavit of probable cause, troopers say Roper was driving under the influence of a lengthy list of drugs, including methamphetamine.

The crash happened around 3:40 p.m. An investigation shows that Roper was driving a 2007 Kenworth semi-truck westbound on U.S. Highway 20 near milepost 353 when he crossed the center line.

RELATED | 1 dead, 2 hospitalized following 4-vehicle crash near St. Anthony

While driving the wrong way in a lane, Roper hit a 2020 Kenworth semi-truck driven by 61-year-old Weyland Schenk, Jr.

Schenk then hit 42-year-old Adrian Mendez Gomez, who was behind Roper in a 2006 Ford F150, according to ISP.

Roper went back into the westbound lane, then crossed over again into the eastbound lane where he hit Sturgeon, who was driving a 2009 Peterbilt semi-truck.

ISP, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and emergency medical personnel rushed to the scene of the crash. When first responders arrived, Sturgeon was dead inside the cab of his semi-truck, according to court documents.

A trooper reported that investigators found a half-full whiskey bottle in the cab of Roper’s truck and a green bottle with various pills.

Gomez was taken to Madison Memorial Hospital and an Air Idaho Rescue helicopter flew Roper to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

When speaking with troopers at the hospital, Roper said he did not remember anything from the crash and only recalled hauling a load of grain from Ashton to Pocatello. Investigators took a blood draw and sent it off to the State Crime Lab for testing.

Multiple witnesses at the grain elevator where Roper had loaded up in Ashton before the crash said he was acting abnormally. According to court documents, one worker reported Roper seemed to be in a hurry.

Additional witnesses along Highway 20 reported Roper forced several other vehicles off the road miles before the crash.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, results from the blood test showed amphetamine, methamphetamine, clonazepam, cyclobenzaprine, diazepam and nordiazepam in Roper’s system.

RELATED | ISP investigating crash on Highway 20 near St. Anthony

This is not the first time Roper has faced issues while behind the wheel of a semi-truck. Court documents show that in February, Roper was cited for misdemeanor leaving the scene of an accident. An affidavit of probable cause filed in Bingham County shows Roper allegedly struck a pickup truck before driving on. Days after the crash, police located Roper and cited him.

Prosecutors in Bingham County dismissed the charge on Aug. 11. It’s unclear why.

Additionally, Roper has faced multiple misdemeanor citations for carrying loads over the weight limits set under Idaho Law.

In 2018, Roper was placed on probation for 18 months after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of medication without a prescription and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

Roper has a lengthy list of eight additional criminal cases in Idaho since 1997.

At his initial appearance on Monday, Magistrate Judge Faren Eddin’s set Roper’s bail at $100,000. A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 14.