A Lake Havasu City man arrested almost five years ago on charges of DUI and manslaughter is still awaiting his day in court. Last year alone, seven criminal trials in his case were vacated.
Tyler J. Sugamele, now 25 years old, was accused in July 2015 of allegedly running a red light at the intersection of South Palo Verde and Acoma Boulevards. According to police, Sugamele’s Ford F-150 truck was traveling at about 110 mph through the intersection when he struck another vehicle, killing 63-year-old John T. Ryan and injuring a 55-year-old woman at the scene. According to police, toxicology reports from the night of the accident showed Sugamele may have been driving under the influence of THC.
Although police statements paint a damning portrait of the alleged offense, Sugamele’s attorney says the circumstances are far more complicated – and the case deserves greater consideration before proceeding to court.
“I understand that everyone involved in this matter would like for it to be over as soon as possible,” said attorney Joey Hamby, of Phoenix-based David Cantor Law Office. “The case might seem simple, but it is fairly complicated in both the facts of the case and the law. Judge (Lee) Jantzen has done everything he can do to move the case forward while protecting the rights of all parties involved. I believe all parties appreciate there is a need to handle the case fairly and to reach the right result.”
According to past statements by Sugamele and his defense, the accident was caused by a mechanical error in his vehicle, which prevented him from stopping before the accident occurred. According to statements by Sugamele’s attorney, the throttle of Sugamele’s truck became stuck, preventing him from slowing as the vehicle accelerated to high speeds. According to his attorneys, the possible malfunction was consistent with customer complaints about his model of vehicle, and was listed as part of a 2013 class action lawsuit against Ford Motor Company.
In 2018, Sugamele was found to be incompetent to stand trial in the case, and was required to undergo a program to restore his competency.
“There have been a number of substantial legal issues that have come up in the case that have to be resolved before this case can go to trial,” Hamby said. “Tyler has stated from the time of this horrible tragedy that this fatal accident was caused by a malfunction in his vehicle. Given the number of unusual factual and legal issues that have come up in this case, it is no surprise it has taken this long. Hopefully we will be able to bring this case to a close before long.”
This month, Sugamele was granted permission by Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen to travel to California as he awaits trial.