Montana Man Pleads Not Guilty to Manslaughter in Fatal U.S. HIGHWAY 97 CRASH


A Montana man, 43 years old, entered a not-guilty plea on Tuesday to seven charges, including four counts of manslaughter and one count of driving under the influence of alcohol. The accusations stem from a head-on collision that occurred in the fall of last year on U.S. Highway 97 north of Redmond, which resulted in the death of a family of four from Troutdale.

A trial for Jesse Carl Ross, who is also charged with careless driving and recklessly endangering another person, is scheduled to begin on January 21. The trial will last for eight days and will be presided over by Deschutes County Circuit Judge Randy Miller. A warrant for his arrest was issued in December of last year, and he turned himself in to the county jail in Bend, where he is still being held on a bail of two million dollars.

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It was approximately 7:30 p.m. on October 12 when Ross was driving a Chevy Silverado in the northbound direction on the highway. He allegedly crossed the center line, sideswiped a semi-truck and trailer traveling in the southbound direction, and then collided head-on with a Toyota RAV4 driven by Gary Rutledge, who was 57 years old.

Soon after the collision, which took place approximately two miles south of Terrebonne, the SUV caught fire and was completely consumed by flames.

At the scene of the accident, Rutledge, his wife Michelle, who was 53 years old, and their two children, Kate, who was 15 years old, and Ryan, who was 17 years old, all studied at Reynolds High School, all passed away. The annular eclipse was taking place in Central Oregon, and they were on their way there to witness it.

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Following a heartbreaking plea from a member of the victim’s family, a judge denied a request made by a defense attorney to reduce Ross’s bail from the previous year. It was pointed out by a defense attorney that he did not have any criminal history and that he sustained serious injuries in the accident. Both alcohol and several banned narcotics were discovered to be present in his system, according to a prosecutor who made the observation.

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