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Archive for Friday, May 29, 1998

DEATH

May 29, 1998

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A preliminary hearing in the death of Lisa Rosel will be set back until students return to Kansas University in the fall.

Two months after Lisa Rosel died crossing the street near 14th and Tennessee, the driver of the sport utility vehicle that hit her appeared in court to face involuntary manslaughter charges.

Matthew Vestal, 19, stood before Douglas County District Judge Robert Fairchild after turning himself in at the Douglas County Jail. Wearing a white shirt and a tie, Vestal was led into to the courtroom, handcuffed alongside other defendants in orange jail jumpsuits.

Vestal is charged in the March 31 death of Rosel, 19. The Douglas County District Attorney's Office withheld charges until full reports from the coroner and Kansas Bureau of Investigation were available.

Both Vestal and Rosel were Kansas University students at the time of the accident.

According to preliminary police reports, Vestal had a blood-alcohol concentration of .081 shortly after the accident; Kansas law considers drivers legally intoxicated at .80. That number drops to 0.02 for drivers under the age of 21. Preliminary reports also showed that Vestal was speeding in the 30 mph zone.

The autopsy report shows Rosel, who had been drinking at a nearby bar with friends, had a blood-alcohol concentration of .097.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney Tonkovich said charges weren't filed until she had time to fully review the reports. She declined to comment on why prosecutors decided to file the involuntary manslaughter charge.

Karen Rosel, Lisa Rosel's mother, said the family was notified about Vestal's arrest. The family plans to be at future court hearings but did not attend Vestal's first appearance Thursday.

``We've met with the prosecutor, and we told her we were in agreement with her, 100 percent,'' Karen Rosel said. ``We support the prosecutors.''

Vestal was released on $1,000 bond shortly after the court hearing, and left with his parents. They declined to comment.

Jim Eisenbrandt, Vestal's attorney from Overland Park, declined to talk after the hearing. During the hearing, however, he said Vestal and his family had cooperated with authorities and that Vestal planned to return to KU in the fall. He has been staying with his family in Englewood, Colo., a suburb of Denver.

Eisenbrandt asked Fairchild to delay the preliminary hearing because some of the witnesses who are KU students are out of state.

``I realize this is a bit unusual, but several of the witnesses fit in this category,'' Eisenbrandt said.

Fairchild set the hearing for 1:45 p.m. Aug. 31. He also lowered Vestal's bond, originally set at $5,000, to $1,000.

Tonkovich said it's not unusual for students' schedules to dictate hearing dates.

``In this county, it's not unusual for witnesses to be out-of-state residents,'' she said. ``That's just a situation we have to deal with on many of our cases.''

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is ckoger@ljworld.com.

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