CORVALLIS, Ore. – A twist in a once suspected DUII case that left an Oregon State University student with critical injuries in November: the current toxicology reports are saying the evidence is currently not supporting a DUII charge.
Matthew Cannard, 29, of McMinville, was arrested in November after deputies say he crashed into 21-year-old Jessica Neffendorf’s vehicle. The deputy on scene says Cannard had a hard time keeping his balance, he was drooling, and he didn’t seem to know where he was. But he says Cannard also told him that he suffered from blackouts and from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Benton County Sheriff’s Office arrested Cannard on Nov. 21 on charges including driving under the influence of intoxicants.
But when an arresting agency arrests someone, that person is booked on suggested charges. The District Attorney’s office will file the charges if there is supported evidence.
Cannard’s initial toxicology reports have come back negative, and the Benton County DA’s office says it does not have enough evidence to charge him for a DUII.
“The charge of DUI just isn’t currently supported by the evidence,” said Deputy District Attorney Shani Krumholz. “But the evidence is developing.”
Cannard is still facing other charges including assault in the second degree and reckless driving. His trial was orginially set for next week, but the State asked to push the date back for several reasons.
“One of them is the condition of Ms. Neffendorf,” Krumholz said. “She is simply unable to appear for trial. We also advised the court, however, that she may never be able to appear for trial. But her condition is still such that hopefully we would like for her to be there.”
Prosecutors are also waiting for other lab tests and for a crash reconstruction report.
Meanwhile, as Krumholz continues her work on the case, she often looks at a picture of Neffendorf that she posted to the wall in her office.
“This is Jessica,” she said. “And she keeps me company. I just think about her all the time. I think about her all the time.”
Neffendorf’s family says she has had seven surgeries. Now, she is at the Providence Child Center in Portland. Though she cannot speak yet, family members say they are seeing improvements.
“We’ll get paper for her and she’ll write on it,” said her stepfather Patrick Smith. “She’ll put on chapstick. And just in the last week or two, we’ve finally seen a smile. And you have no idea what that does.”
The family says hopefully within the next few weeks, Neffendorf will be able to start physical therapy, which Smith says will help determine the extent of her brain injuries.
“But we’re totally optimistic,” Smith said. “It’s been majorly stressful for the whole family. I wouldn’t wish what happened to Jessica and our family on anybody.”
As for Krumholz, she is reminded by Neffendorf’s picture every day of the work she does.
“She’s an inspiration for me to keep on showing up every day and trying to do the right work every day and just trying to get it right every day.”
Cannard’s trial is set for July 7.