Man faces manslaughter charge

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SANDPOINT — A Bonner County man is being charged with vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving in connection with a collision that killed one pedestrian and seriously injured another.

Peter Franklin Goullette made an initial appearance in magistrate court on Wednesday. Judge Tera Harden sustained Goullette’s $50,000 and appointed a public defender to represent him, court records indicate.

The charges date back to June 30, 2016, when Katherine Stelzer and Zualita Updike were walking southbound on McGhee Road while taking a break from their jobs at the nearby Litehouse Foods. Idaho State Police said Goullette was driving southbound when he struck the two women with a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck.

Stelzer, 61, of Mead, Wash., died at the scene. Updike, a 50-year-old Clark Fork resident, was airlifted from the scene for treatment at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.

The criminal proceedings against Goullette were paused last September after he was imprisoned for violating the terms of his probation in burglary and weapon possession cases

Goullette, 23, was granted parole on May 16, according to the Idaho Commission of Pardons & Parole’s website.

Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Roger Hanlon went before Judge Debra Heise about a month prior to that date to secure a finding of probable cause for a manslaughter and reckless driving charges, court records show.

Hanlon is prosecuting Goullette with manslaughter at the felony level because Goullette was allegedly driving his vehicle in a grossly negligent manner.

Goullette told investigators that he didn’t see the pedestrians until it was too late because he had become distracted by his child, who he thought was unfastening the buckle to a safety seat, court documents indicate.

“That would be a logical explanation for him to give, but it would be inconsistent with the other evidence that we have,” Hanlon told Heise during the April 7 probable cause hearing.

Two witnesses told investigators that Goullette was speeding down the road.

One of the witnesses, who happens to be driving instructor, told investigators that Goullette did not have his eyes on the road when they crossed paths in vehicles.

“He was not looking forward in the direction that he was driving. He was looking downward and, at that time, to the left,” Hanlon told the court.

Crash reconstruction analysis conducted by state police estimated Goullette’s speed to be approximately 43 mph immediately before the collision and at least 35 mph at the point of impact, according to court documents.

Moreover, there was unobstructed line of site from the site of the collision to Highway 200 and Goullette was apparently aware that pedestrians were walking along the road.

Goullette had passed the pedestrians, later identified as Stelzer and Updike, about 20 minutes before the collision when he was driving the home of his child’s mother.

“When he crossed the railroad tracks he in fact waved to two pedestrians who were on the roadway at that time,” said Hanlon,

Goullette posted a surety bond and is awaiting a preliminary hearing, which is set for Wednesday.

Goullette is also a defendant in a civil suit brought by Updike. The case is in the discovery phase and a seven-day jury trial is planned for July 2018.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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