Man charged with vehicular homicide for July crash that killed Aztec teacher
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The suspect's arrest warrant was still active on Feb. 21
FARMINGTON — A San Juan County man is wanted by police on an accusation of vehicular homicide for a high-speed crash in July on U.S. Highway 550 that killed an Aztec High School teacher and severely injured another woman.
A report by the New Mexico State Police states that the suspect was driving more than 35 mph over the speed limit and could have avoided hitting the victims' vehicle if he had been driving the posted 65 mph speed limit.
Christopher Middlebrook, 24, is accused of third-degree felony counts of homicide by vehicle (reckless driving) and great bodily harm by vehicle (reckless driving), according to court records.
The crash killed Aztec High School English teacher Amy Huaman and severely injured AHS English teacher Cynthia Mortensen on the morning of July 17, 2019, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
The defendant's arrest warrant was still active on the morning of Feb. 21.
The arrest warrant affidavit details the investigation into the crash, including a report from the New Mexico State Police Crash Reconstruction Unit and interviews with witnesses.
Witnesses say Kia was speeding
Multiple witnesses said they observed the black Kia Soul driven by Middlebrook driving extremely fast southbound on U.S. Highway 550 and they reported being passed at a high rate of speed.
One man said he did not see the crash, but he saw car parts, smoke and dust flying up in the air as he approached the scene.
Another man described seeing a red 2006 Toyota Scion making an U-turn around the 172 mile marker on U.S. Highway 550 near the intersection of County Road 2105.
He saw the Scion turn southbound then begin to merge into the right lane.
He also saw the Kia Soul move into the right lane to pass them, but the Kia ended up crashing into the back of the Toyota Scion.
The man saw the brake lights of the Kia Soul illuminate almost immediately as it crashed into the Toyota Scion, according to court documents.
Report details crash events
The state police reconstruction unit conducted its investigation, and part of its report is included in the court documents.
The report said the Toyota Scion missed it's turn, then pulled into the median to make a U-turn to go southbound. Middlebrook was allegedly driving around 101 to 102 mph in a 65 mph speed limit zone.
The investigators wrote that Middlebrook "got hard" on the brakes of the vehicle about 1.5 seconds before impact.
A couple of scenarios were tested, including a scenario where if the Kia Soul had been traveling at the posted speed limit and hit its brakes about 1.5 seconds before impact, it would not have struck the Scion, according to court documents.
"I believe it was an avoidable crash had Middlebrook been traveling at the posted speed limit of 65 MPH," according to the affidavit.
The findings were sent to the San Juan County District Attorney's Office for review.
On Jan. 21, the State Police received a letter from the DA's office to initiate the charges against Middlebrook.
Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at email@example.com.
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