A 23-year-old Seeley Lake man made an initial court appearance Tuesday on charges related to a fatal hit-and-run crash that killed a bicyclist last June on U.S. Highway 83.
Cody Bartlett has been charged with felony counts of failing to stop at the scene where a person was killed or seriously injured, and tampering with evidence. He also faces misdemeanors for careless driving resulting in death or bodily injury, failure to give notice by quickest means of an accident, and obstructing a peace officer or public servant.
Bartlett has long been a suspect in the hit-and-run collision that killed 18-year-old Rodney Jacob "Jake" Loudon, also of Seeley Lake, though charges were not filed until last month. He appeared in Missoula County Justice Court alongside attorney Milt Datsopoulos and formally heard the case against him.
About 18 friends and family members, most of them related to Bartlett, observed the proceedings before Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech.
Prosecutors allege that Bartlett's pickup truck hit Loudon's bicycle on the night of June 25 along a stretch of Highway 83 just north of town. Loudon's body was found the following day in a barrow pit on the east side of the highway.
Later in the day, Bartlett came forward and told Missoula County sheriff's deputies that he had been driving in the area the previous night. He said he was not paying attention to the road and was fiddling with his satellite radio when he struck something that he thought was a deer. He told investigators that he did not stop, but kept on driving to his father's house to pick up his young daughter.
Search warrants identify items from the scene of the accident that were in Bartlett's possession, such as a shoe belonging to the victim. Investigators also found broken pieces of Bartlett's purple Dodge pickup truck and other debris at the accident scene, as well as another black shoe belonging to Loudon, who was not wearing any shoes when his body was discovered by other bicyclists.
Investigators could not immediately find the second shoe, but it eventually turned up near Bartlett's home in Seeley Lake, records state.
A bartender at the Filling Station told investigators that Bartlett had consumed two Captain Morgan's Rum and Cokes shortly before the crash, and admitted to drinking two beers earlier in the evening at Lubrecht Experimental Forest.
Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at 523-5264 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.