The Westport man accused of killing another man with his truck was once the rural community’s fire chief and was convicted in a bizarre embezzlement case, Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said in court Thursday.
Jeffrey Craig Stone, 65, allegedly hit Curtis Michael Russell, 22, of Longview, Washington, with a Dodge truck on Wednesday afternoon. Russell became stuck in the truck’s undercarriage and was dragged more than 1,300 feet, according to court records. He sustained significant head injuries and died at the scene.
The two men had been driving west on U.S. Highway 30 around 4 p.m. when one became angry at the way the other passed ahead, Marquis said. The vehicles repeatedly passed each other, and one of the men directed an obscene gesture toward the other.
Russell passed Stone one more time after he turned onto Old Mill Town Road and stopped his car. The Longview man got out of the car with a small baseball bat in hand and walked toward Stone’s truck with three other people around him. The truck was struck during the altercation, Marquis said, leading Stone to allegedly accelerate around the car and hit Russell.
Stone allegedly fled the scene before returning. He admitted to drinking five beers during the day, smelled like alcohol and appeared intoxicated, according to court records.
Stone was arrested and taken to Clatsop County Jail. He was charged with first-degree manslaughter, failure to perform the duties of a driver to an injured person, reckless driving and driving under the influence of intoxicants.
During Stone’s first hearing Thursday in Circuit Court, Marquis mentioned his 2004 conviction for first-degree arson and first-degree aggravated theft. Stone, then the chief of the Westport Volunteer Fire Department, tried to set fire to business records after being accused of embezzlement. He was sentenced to 17 months in prison.
Stone’s bail was set at $500,000 Thursday by Judge Paula Brownhill. Marquis initially asked for it to be set at $1 million.
The Clatsop County Major Crimes Team is investigating the altercation.
First-degree manslaughter carries a prison sentence of at least 10 years. Stone could face lesser charges — like second-degree manslaughter — or more severe ones — including murder — once prosecutors bring the case to a grand jury.
“Generally we charge low and then go up from there,” Marquis said. “A murder is an intentional act intentionally causing the death of another. Manslaughter in the first degree is recklessly, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
If a defendant does not display extreme indifference to human life, a second-degree manslaughter charge could be appropriate, Marquis said.
The district attorney doubted that self-defense led Stone to run over Russell.
“The only justification for inflicting this much damage on this victim would’ve been a reasonable belief by the defendant that he was about to be killed and the only reasonable thing he could do was to drag him 1,000 feet,” Marquis said. “That sounds like a very unrealistic scenario.”