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Crime & Courts

Soldotna man charged with murder, DUI after fleeing fatal rollover on Sterling Highway, charges say

A Soldotna man is facing a charge of second-degree murder after fleeing from the scene of a rollover crash near the Sterling Highway early Saturday that killed one passenger, charging documents said.

Law enforcement was called to Forest Lane and Buchta Street in Soldotna at 3:38 a.m., according to a sworn affidavit by Alaska State Troopers Sgt. Joseph Miller. Two people had minor injuries and 27-year-old Idaho resident Samuel Helmuth was dead at the scene, the affidavit said.

The two surviving passengers told officers that 50-year-old David Casey had been drinking before getting in his Audi Q7 to drive the group to his home in Soldotna, the affidavit said. The group had gone to a bar in Kenai and left after it closed at 2 a.m., according to the affidavit.

Casey “made comments about being ‘DUI’ and hoping he did not get stopped,” the affidavit said. Passengers told officers he was swerving and crossed the rumble strips on the road multiple times, Miller wrote. Casey stopped several times and argued with the passengers, the affidavit said.

He turned onto Forest Lane from the Sterling Highway and quickly accelerated, the affidavit said. Casey failed to make the righthand curve near Buchta Street, drove into trees and the vehicle rolled, the affidavit said.

Helmuth was thrown from the vehicle and died, the affidavit said. The SUV’s roadside assistance activated after the crash and the passengers tried to tell Casey to call police, but he would not, the affidavit said. The passengers flagged down a passing vehicle for help and were unable to find Casey several minutes later, Miller wrote.

Both surviving passengers were brought to the hospital with scratches, scrapes and bruises, the affidavit said.

Troopers searched for Casey but could not find him. Around 5:30 a.m., Casey was reported to be back at his home, the affidavit said. When troopers arrived, he was armed with a handgun that he waved at himself and another person, according to the affidavit. Casey dropped the weapon after several commands from troopers and he was arrested, the affidavit said.

Casey was charged with second-degree murder, two counts of third-degree assault, driving under the influence, misconduct involving weapons, reckless endangerment and leaving the scene of an accident involving death.

Correction: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect age for Helmuth. Troopers initially said he was 37, but he was 27.

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