Driver convicted in crash that killed couple was not drug tested

LOVELAND, Colo. -- Death on Highway 34 was nearly instant for Josh and Sherri Zander.

Josh and Sherri Zander

The motorcycle couple, both 55, were riding home from Estes Park on Aug. 21 when they were killed by a wrong-way driver who crossed the center line at mile marker 81 east of Drake.

According to a police report, 37-year-old Jeannie Morrow told Colorado State Patrol troopers "she took her eyes off the road to check mirrors" when she veered into oncoming traffic.

Jeannie Morrow

But witness Rob Cowles said whatever distracted Morrow lasted a good five seconds because he and his wife, best friends of the Zanders, were riding ahead on their motorcycle.

"I had to swerve my motorcycle in order to miss the car hitting us. The car right behind me saw them coming so he jerked his car well to the right. And by the time he jerked out of the way, our friends never even saw the car coming."

Troopers found a marijuana pipe in Morrow's car but never had her blood tested for drugs.

Rob Cowles

"I'm grateful for law enforcement. I believe in what they do and I think almost always they get it right, but I feel they got it wrong this time," Cowles said.

The Zander's adult children said they too are stunned that Morrow was never drug tested.

"I think she would have tested positive for at least some kind of drugs," daughter Katie Byers said.

The day after the crash, a good Samaritan found marijuana and a marijuana grinder at the crash scene along with a butane torch.

A Larimer County sheriff's deputy collected the evidence but when the deputy called the Colorado State Patrol, his report notes troopers told him, "There was not a blood draw performed on the driver of the vehicle and the evidence I collected would not be needed in their case."

Katie Byers

Another key piece of evidence not collected at the scene by troopers was a complete witness statement from the first driver who stopped to comfort Morrow.

"(The witness) indicated that (Morrow) smelled of marijuana. On a scale of 1 to 10, she rated it as an 8 at the time. When she was spoken to at the scene, she wasn't asked that question," said Emily Humphrey, the second assistant District Attorney for Larimer County.

As a result, Humphrey said all she could charge Morrow with was two misdemeanor counts of careless driving resulting in death.

A blood test with a positive drug result could have allowed prosecutors to charge Morrow with two counts of vehicular homicide.

Instead of facing up to 12 years for each count of vehicular homicide, Morrow was able to plead guilty to two misdemeanors and in March received six months of jail to be followed by six months of work release and 30 months of probation.

Emily Humphrey, second assistant District Attorney for Larimer County

"Of course, I would love to have a blood test, however, at that time state patrol determined they did not have probable cause to get a search warrant to obtain that blood draw," Humphrey said.

"In this case, I would've expected (a blood draw) to happen," said James Wilkerson, the Larimer County coroner.

Wilkerson said that immediately after the crash, Morrow was taken to McKee Medical Center in Loveland, the obvious place to do a blood draw.

Wilkerson adds toxicology results were obtained by the two dead victims during their autopsies.

James Wilkerson, Larimer County coroner

"(The Zander couple) didn't have any alcohol or drugs of abuse on board," Wilkerson said.

Yet Morrow's possible drug use at the time of the crash will remain a mystery.

"It certainly makes me wonder. I wish I knew," said Major Tim Keeton, who oversees District 3 for the Colorado State Patrol.

His region includes Highway 34 in Larimer County. Keeton said troopers didn't notice any physical signs of impairment from Morrow so they didn't seek a blood test.

Major Tim Keeton, Colorado State Patrol

"I don't think we had legal justification. I wish we had known one way or the other because I won't lie, I would love to know," Keeton said.

Neither trooper who responded to the scene was a trained drug recognition expert.

Keeton said from now on, the Colorado State Patrol has a plan to ensure a DRE trooper responds to any fatal accident that might involve a felony.

"It would not have been a misdemeanor case," Keeton said.

In addition, the prosecutor's office said it will allow its own investigators to respond to fatal crash scenes to help conduct witness interviews and advise troopers on what might be admissible evidence.

Zander family

"It doesn't help the Zander family, but I can tell you that I believe the state patrol has learned a tremendous amount from this particular case," Humphrey said.

The FOX31 Problem Solvers interviewed Morrow through a video link at the Larimer County Jail.

"I felt so bad, like I shouldn't have ever got behind the wheel and got a driver's license," Morrow said.

She said she had just obtained her driver's license in South Carolina before recently moving to Colorado to escape an abusive relationship and to access medical marijuana.

Jeannie Morrow

When asked what a blood draw immediately after the crash would have found, Morrow responded,"Probably very, very little pot."

Morrow claims she hadn't smoked pot for about three weeks at the time of the crash and was in no way impaired by what little marijuana might've remained in her system.

"Absolutely not," she claimed.

Morrow said when she removed marijuana and a marijuana grinder from her car before troopers arrived on the scene, it was not an attempt to hide incriminating evidence.

"As a matter of trying to hide it, it was not something that we were trying to do at all," Morrow said.

Morrow was asked: "Do you think that if you had told the trooper that, 'Here's some marijuana and a marijuana grinder I had' that he would've been more likely to perform a field sobriety test on you and want to get you blood tested?"

"Absolutely," Morrow said. "Well, I feel like that's something that should be mandatory anyway."

So does the victims' son, Josh Zander.

"I think any kind of accident resulting in a fatality, all parties involved should be tested," he said.

Jeannie Morrow's vehicle at the crash scene

But Morrow also claims troopers had no reason to test her.

"I think they would've thought more if they would've smelled (marijuana), you know?" she said.

When told a witness who stopped said she smelled a strong odor of marijuana on her body, Morrow said, "Oh, that's impossible, that's impossible."

But the Colorado State Patrol doesn't think it's impossible.

Crash scene

When asked if she got away with vehicular homicide because she was never tested, Morrow responded, "No, that's something I would never imagine doing."
After a trooper reinterviewed the witness who said she smelled marijuana on Morrow after the crash, investigators returned to McKee Medical Center with a search warrant, hoping doctors had drawn Morrow's blood.

But troopers were told Morrow's injuries were so superficial that she didn't have any bloodwork done so there was no new evidence to provide investigators.

When asked how much she would like to know what the blood results would have revealed, Humphrey said, "I think that's everyone's wish and I think even the state patrol now."

Morrow is due to be released from the Larimer County Jail in September.