Kenneth Dale Conley and the Peterbilt dump truck he was driving at the time of the crash. | Bannock County Jail and Braden Hartle
POCATELLO — A man accused of killing two people in an Aug. 9, 2023, crash on Interstate 15 has again seen his preliminary hearing delayed while Idaho State Police work on accident reconstruction.
Kenneth Dale Conley, 68, who is charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter, was scheduled to appear before Magistrate Judge Scott Axline Tuesday for a preliminary hearing — which would determine if there is probable cause warranting a trial. However, his hearing was continued for the third time and is now set for March 12.
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Natasha Pimental, the mother of Monique Morales, one of the two people who died in the crash, and Mariah Morales, who survived, said the process has been tough on her.
“It’s been hard for me because I will mentally prepare for (the hearings) — I know that it’s going to be hard, I’m going to have to listen to everything that happened that led up and the moment that (Monique) died,” she told EastIdahoNews.com.
Still, Pimental is “OK” with the delays because it means that the case is being handled properly.
Stacie Sweetow, the mother of Jaren Goering, who was driving Mariah’s Toyota Avalon at the time of the crash, expressed her own anger.
“I am very frustrated and disappointed this is continued again,” Sweetow said in an email to EastIdahoNews.com. “Especially since Mr. Conley is out on the streets, enjoying time with his family, while my family and the Morales family continue to suffer. We are going on six months since the accident. It’s time to get this wrapped up so we all can move forward with the healing process.”
Sweetow, who lives out of state, said she plans on attending the new hearing on March 12.
The Toyota the Moraleses and Jaren Goering were driving at the time of the crash. | Logan Ramsey, EastIdahoNews.com
The crash occurred near a construction area on I-15 between Fort Hall and Chubbuck.
According to accounts from Mariah and several witnesses included in police reports, Conley’s Peterbilt dump truck crashed into the back of the Toyota, which had slowed with other traffic as it approached the construction zone. Mariah recalls the feeling and sound of her car crushing under the weight of the massive truck as it drove over top of it.
RELATED | ‘My whole car was demolished.’ Woman who survived a fatal I-15 crash recounts the incident.
Conley was initially scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Nov. 28. But that hearing was reset as ISP had not yet begun its work on the accident reconstruction report.
As prosecuting attorney Jonathan Radford explained to EastIdahoNews.com, those reports often do take time. Radford told Axline in court Tuesday that, once the report is completed, which is expected this week, it must then undergo peer review — a process that will take another two weeks.
Both Radford and defense attorney David Martinez told Axline they believe resetting the hearing for March 12 would provide sufficient time for the entire process to be completed.
Though she is trying to remain patient, Pimental, who has attended every one of Conley’s hearings, told EastIdahoNews.com that each trip from Rexburg to Pocatello is difficult — especially as she passes the section of the road where her daughter was killed.
“Every time I do it, I get chills,” she said. “I’m trying to stay strong, I’m trying to stay positive. I’m not to the point yet — you know how some people say, ‘God needed her, she had a purpose,’ I’m not there yet. I’m mad and I have every right to be mad. We shouldn’t have to bury our children. It’s heart-wrenching, it really is,” she added fighting back tears.
About Tuesday’s hearing, she added, “I had a hard time today, with him being free and sitting right (next to me), because I don’t think he should be out of jail.”
Pimental has tried to avoid any contact with Conley or his family members who also attend every hearing, but described one interaction she did have with him early on during the proceedings.
As she sat in court, Pimental recalled, Conley made eye contact with her and gave her a “weird smirk.” She said that she has felt no remorse from Conley, and her interactions with his family have been worse.
After Conley failed to appear in court in Madison County, for a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident that occurred five days after the fatal crash on I-15, Pimental was worried Conley was attempting to skirt justice. So, she posted his picture of him on several local Facebook groups asking for people to be on the lookout.
She said a member of Conley’s family commented on the post.
“F*** you, Natasha,” she said the comment read. “I hope your surviving daughter becomes a drug addict and suffers the rest of her life.”
The same family member sent a private message, Pimental added, saying, “Every mother deserves to go through some pain.”
“I don’t get it. I didn’t do anything wrong — I lost my daughter,” Pimental told EastIdahoNews.com of the exchanges.
As she waits for the seemingly slow wheels of justice to turn, Pimental said there are other concerns that split her attention.
While she mourns one of her daughters, Pimental has made herself readily available at any beck and call to the other. With Mariah unable to drive, Pimental has made trips from her home in Rexburg to Mariah’s in Idaho Falls at all hours, for whatever reason.
She has also remained focused on guiding her daughter from any feelings of survivor’s guilt, explaining that, “Monique wouldn’t want you to feel that way.”
Mariah is seeing a therapist to deal with the anguish of surviving the crash that took from her a sister and a close friend — and the memory of holding Goering as he died.
Physically, she is worse for the wear than originally thought, Pimental said.
“My heart hurts for Mariah,” Pimental said. “I don’t know if she’s ever going to be OK again.”
The stress of the court proceedings and the love and time she gives Mariah has not helped with the pain she feels in dealing with the loss of Monique.
Ever the caregiver, Pimental said Mariah was not supposed to be in the car that day. She was going to Pocatello for a documentation issue involving a child she was fostering.
“I just want her back, and I know that’s not possible, but I do — I would do anything,” she said.
If he is found guilty on both counts of vehicular manslaughter, Conley could face up to 20 years in prison.
The post ‘My heart hurts’: mother of two victims in August I-15 crash addresses another court delay appeared first on East Idaho News.