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Ronan woman faces endangerment, DUI charges for driving wrong way on Highway 200, babies on board

Ronan woman faces endangerment, DUI charges for driving wrong way on Highway 200, babies on board

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A 22-year-old Ronan woman is accused of driving the wrong way for nearly 15 miles on Montana Highway 200 early Saturday morning, forcing several cars - including two driven by sheriff's deputies - off the road.

Jennifer Rae Messerly's two babies, ages 6 months and 16 months, were among the four people in the Jeep traveling westbound in the eastbound lane near the Paws Up resort, according to court papers.

She faces six felony counts of criminal endangerment and a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence.

Because Messerly is still nursing, public defender Myshell Uhl asked that a low bail be considered. But Missoula County Justice of the Peace John Odlin agreed to Deputy County Attorney Patricia Bower's request for $100,000 bail.

"I think it's only by the grace of God that you're still here, ma'am," Odlin said to a weeping Messerly, who appeared via video feed from the Missoula County Detention Facility. He also forbade her from any contact with her children.

Shortly before 5 a.m. Saturday, a motorist called 9-1-1 to report that a Jeep had nearly hit three vehicles, including her own, according to an affidavit filed in the case. Two sheriff's deputies were dispatched in separate cars.

One deputy swerved to avoid the Jeep, squeezing between it and the guardrail, while the other "had to take extreme evasive action" by slamming on the brakes and running up onto a snowbank, the affidavit said.

Dashboard cameras mounted in each deputy's vehicle recorded the incidents.

After a deputy stopped Messerly, she first explained she'd been distracted by one of her children, then said she'd taken OxyCodone earlier in the evening, the affidavit said.

Although she refused a blood test at St. Patrick Hospital, she later said she'd taken Percocet for back pain at about 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. "She made the comment that she is immune to medication," it said.

Criminal endangerment carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine, while conviction on a first offense of driving under the influence can result in a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com or on CopsAndCourts.com.

 

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