Two-car head-on collision instantly killed a 73-year-old Astoria womanOpening statements were expected to begin this morning in the trial of Kalen J. Painter, accused of manslaughter in the fatal crash that killed an Astoria woman last February.

Painter, 21, of Warrenton is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter and three counts of driving under the influence of intoxicants for his role in the two-car head-on collision the evening of Feb. 13 on Oregon Highway 202 just south of Astoria.

Ruth F. Guenther, 73, was killed instantly when Painter's 1997 Ford Expedition crossed the center line and hit her 2002 Hyundai.

Painter, who received minor injuries, was found to have a blood-alcohol level of .28 percent, three and a half times the legal limit. After being retrieved from Youngs Bay, where his vehicle landed after the crash, he was taken to Columbia Memorial Hospital for treatment, then arrested.

It was Painter's third arrest for drunk-driving in a year, the first two dating from April and May 2002. Both those incidents have been consolidated into the manslaughter case.

The two sides' opening statements were to be followed by a tour of the crash site and viewing of the two vehicles by the jury.

In a pre-trial hearing Wednesday morning, Judge Paula Brownhill heard motions from District Attorney Josh Marquis and defense attorney Bruce Tarbox regarding various pieces of evidence each side asked to be allowed or excluded from the trial. They included testimony about a statement Painter allegedly made to an emergency worker at the scene of the crash that "the bitch shouldn't have been in my way."

"This shows he was recklessly indifferent to what he had done," Marquis told Brownhill.

Evidence about another incident last year in which Painter allegedly knocked down several mailboxes with his vehicle was also to be introduced.

First-degree manslaughter is a ballot

Measure 11 offense that carries a mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentence and a maximum 20 years. Earlier this year, the Oregon Legislature approved a bill that

toughens penalties for drunk driving-related fatalities, but the new law won't apply to Painter's case.


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