Man with previous DUI arrest to face vehicular homicide charges in cyclist’s death

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — Family and friends are mourning the loss of Kerry Wiltzius, 65, after she was hit and killed on a Spokane County highway on June 26.

Around 7 a.m., Wiltzius was riding her bike on State Route 206 near Halliday Road. Washington State Patrol said behind her in a tow truck was 46-year-old Jonathon Ryser. They were both going eastbound. She was wearing an orange reflective vest and helmet, documents said.

The Coeur d’Alene man allegedly hit Wiltzius from behind. Court documents say Wiltzius suffered several broken bones, had a spinal cord and head injuries. Witnesses trying to help Wiltzius found her laying in a ditch, documents said. She was flown to Sacred Heart Hospital. Two days later, she died.

“We don’t want to go have to knock on anybody’s door and tell them that their loved one is deceased,” said Trooper Jeff Sevigney. “It’s definitely the worst part of this job.”

According to troopers, Ryser took field sobriety and breathalyzer tests. Troopers found no obvious signs of impairment. Washington State Patrol asked Ryser for a voluntary sample of his blood, which he refused.

Court documents say a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), an officer trained to determine if someone is under the influence of drugs, was called to the scene. The DRE, an officer with the Spokane Police Department, said he noticed body and eyelid tremors and Ryser was allegedly swaying. His pulse was taken and came in at 120 bpm. Ryser told the officer he drank energy drinks earlier in the day, documents said.

The officer also said he noticed Ryser had red, watery eyes and a dry mouth. According to documents, Ryser admitted to using pot and an over the counter male enhancement drug the night before. He also told the DRE that he smoked marijuana oil out of a vape pen that morning before leaving Coeur d’Alene at 6 a.m., documents state. At one point, he said he didn’t, according to the probable cause affidavit. Ryser said his vape pen was in the tow truck.

WSP arrested him for vehicular assault and booked him into the Spokane County jail that morning. He was released on his own recognizance the next day.

“You can’t just drive impaired,” Sevigney said. “There’s absolutely no reason to do that.”

Wiltzius worked at the Northeast Community Center. She is also known for her time at the Spokane Humane Society, the Friends of Manito Park, and the Inland Northwest Development Council.

“Anytime we lose a part of our community, you know it affects, it doesn’t just affect the parties involved,” Sevigney said. “It affects the community.”

The City of Spokane has had one fatal crash this year where impairment was involved. According to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, they’ve had 13 deadly crashes. Eight of those in June. They’ve been called to nine serious-injury crashes during the first half of the year. Authorities said speed, impairment or both “seem to be common factors in these fatal/serious injury crashes.”

This isn’t Ryser’s first run in with law enforcement.

According to court records, he was convicted of theft in 2001 and possession of a controlled substance in 2007.

Most recently, Ryser was arrested for driving under the influence in Idaho. According to court documents obtained by 4 News Now, Ryser was driving on Highway 95 in Kootenai County on January 1, 2019. Around 11:31 p.m., Idaho State Patrol received a complaint about a AAA tow truck driving “all over the road.” According to documents, Ryser worked for Sunset Towing.

In documents filed by WSP, it stated that he still worked for Sunset Towing at the time of the crash that killed Wiltzius. The truck he was driving was a Sunset Towing truck.

The 911 caller in Idaho said they continued to follow Ryser. Documents say he failed to maintain a lane, kept his signal life on, crossed both the fog line, center line and the double yellow line.

He allegedly almost hit a guard rail, causing other drivers to move out of the way to avoid a crash, documents state.

The Idaho trooper caught up with Ryser near Military Drive near Empire Avenue. Documents said the trooper did a DUI investigation. He said he noticed slurred speech and glassy or bloodshot eyes.

According to documents, the trooper said they noticed constricted pupils, eyelid tremors and he was sweating in 27 degree weather.

A breathalyzer test was given and he blew a .000, documents said.

The court documents show that a DRE did an evaluation on Ryser at the Kootenai County jail. The deputy determined he was under the influence of a drug. Ryser was booked for driving under the influence.

In February 2019, Ryser’s DUI charge was amended to inattentive driving, which he pleaded guilty to. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, one year of probation and his license was suspended for a year. During the crash that killed Wiltzius, his license was valid out of Idaho.

Documents say he also had to enroll and finish a substance abuse and alcohol education course.

According to Sevigney, Ryser will be charged with vehicular homicide.

With the Fourth of July weekend ahead, Sevigney said they’ll have extra patrols out on the roadway, looking for drivers either speeding or driving under the influence.

RELATED: N. Idaho man charged with vehicular assault in crash that sent cyclist to the hospital

READ: Spokane Valley deputies respond to second fatal crash in two-day span