Charges have been filed and the suspect has been arraigned in the death late last year of 54-year-old Blaine County Undersheriff Pat Pyette.
Mary Louise Stewart, the 61-year-old Hays woman who struck Pyette on U. S. Highway 2 on Dec. 14, pleaded not guilty Monday morning to a felony charge of negligent homicide.
Blaine County Attorney Don Ranstrom said this morning that a few factors were behind the charge.
According to Ranstrom, Stewart was driving “in a fairly excessive speed” of 45 mph in an emergency area, while inattentively singing along with a song on her stereo. Ranstrom also said that Stewart’s diabetes, and its effect on her evening vision, were somewhat responsible.
“But the biggest thing is the officer was doing everything correctly in doing his work, ” Ranstrom said. “He had a safety vest and a stop/slow paddle and his flashlight. He had done this in excess of two hours and had not had any close calls with anybody, and she just went through there. ”
Pyette was directing traffic on Highway 2 east of Chinook, near Spa Bar, after a semi-trailer broke down alongside the road.
Around 5 p. m. Stewart drove through and hit Pyette, after which he was flown to Benefis Hospital in Great Falls, where he died.
Pyette had served in Blaine County for 10 years, following his retirement from the U. S. Air Force.
His funeral the following Monday, Dec. 19, drew hundreds of supporters from across the state and from Canada.
An omnibus hearing for the case was set for Monday, April 23, at 11:15 a. m.