Man guilty in deadly crash

The man accused of killing one woman and maiming another when he plowed his pickup into a bus shelter while under the influence of prescription drugs was found guilty Monday in District Court.

A Clark County jury convicted Steven Murray of killing 55-year-old Patricia Hoff and seriously injuring Porsche Hughes when he hit a bus shelter on Boulder Highway near Flamingo Road on July 7.

Hughes, a mother of two, lost both legs as a result of the crash.

Murray, 44, remained silent as the court clerk read the verdict. Hughes and Hoff’s daughter, Robin Wynkoop, began crying in the courtroom.

“We got him off the street,” said Hughes, 27, who attended the reading of the verdict in her wheelchair.

Hughes, who said she felt sick to her stomach before the verdict was announced, said she’s still trying to recover from the crash. Now that the trial is over, she’s focusing on relearning how to walk.

She also is scheduled to testify this week before the Legislature on an Assembly bill that would remove the $50,000 limit on payouts from the state’s Victims of Crime Program.

Hoff, originally from Ohio, moved to Las Vegas in 1993. Wynkoop said Monday that she misses her mother, even the times when Hoff would yell at her.

“I’d rather hear her yelling,” Wynkoop said through tears.

Murray’s trial garnered attention in part because of his driving history. He was convicted four times in Texas of driving while intoxicated during the 1990s.

Before the bus stop crash, his last two convictions for driving under the influence were in April and May of 1999.

Murray also had three minor traffic violations in Nevada and had only an instruction permit.

After the crash, Murray told police that he had taken Percocet, a pain reliever, and Valium the previous night. He had a valid prescription for the drugs and took them for an old back injury.

Murray, an electrician, did not testify during the trial.

The jury was not told about Murray’s prior DUI convictions during the trial because it would have been considered highly prejudicial information.

Under Nevada law, those convicted of vehicular homicide are sentenced to 25 years to life in prison if they have three or more previous DUI convictions.

The jury convicted Murray of driving under the influence causing a death and driving under the influence causing substantial bodily harm. It deliberated for about 21/2 hours.

District Judge Michelle Leavitt will address Murray’s prior convictions when he is sentenced May 21.

County prosecutor L.J. O’Neale said he was pleased with the verdict but stopped short of saying it was justice served.

“Justice would be giving Porsche back her legs, giving Mrs. Hoff back her life,” he said.

During the trial, witnesses told the jury that Murray was driving erratically before the crash. One witness, who was driving behind Murray, said Murray was swerving into and out of his lane.

Hughes, who testified Wednesday, said she saw Murray hit a curb, accelerate, then strike her and Hoff with the truck. Both women were waiting at the bus stop that morning.

Authorities said Murray was driving while impaired when he struck the bus shelter and failed several field sobriety tests afterward.

But on Friday, forensic toxicologist John Hiatt testified that Murray probably wasn’t impaired while driving. Hiatt, who testified on Murray’s behalf, reviewed police reports on the crash and Murray’s toxicology reports.

Hiatt said the levels of Valium and Percocet were within the “therapeutic range,” meaning they were within the proper dosages for Murray’s prescriptions.

In addition, he said, Murray probably would have built up a tolerance to the drugs because he had been taking them for at least several months.

Both drugs would have had little effect on Murray’s driving, Hiatt said.

“I think he would have been able to handle the combination of the two drugs,” he said.

Unlike with alcohol, there is no legal limit on the amount of prescription drugs a person can have in his or her system while driving. That’s because the drugs affect people differently, prosecutors said.

Deputy public defenders Darin Imlay and Stephen Immerman, Murray’s attorneys, contended that Murray struck the bus stop because he swerved to avoid another vehicle.

“We respect the jury’s decision,” Immerman said after the verdict.

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

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