Judge deems man competent to stand trial in DUI crash that killed 14-year-old girl

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A Midvale man accused of a crash that killed a 14-year-old girl and injured several other teens will now stand trial for murder.

Charged with first-degree felony murder and six other felony charges related to the deadly crash on May 15, 2018, Casey James Cook-Ziemelis, 20, was transported back to the Salt Lake County Jail on Friday after a judge declared he was now competent enough for his case to move forward.

During a preliminary hearing on October 23, 2018, Cook-Ziemelis attorney requested a competency hearing be conducted.

In January, a judge determined that Cook-Ziemelis was not competent to stand trial and he was committed to the Utah State Hospital for competency restoration proceedings.

On July 23, 2019, Cook-Ziemelis was deemed fully restored to competency and was transported back to the Salt Lake County Jail.

On the night of the crash, police had received several 911 calls reporting a reckless driver at 3300 South 700 East. The caller stated the driver of a Chevy Blazer was driving “super dangerous”, had driven over the median of I-80, almost caused four wrecks and going 80 mph on 700 East.

Two hours later, police received another call from a tenant at an apartment complex located near 4200 South Main. The caller stated several individuals appeared to be high or drunk and were walking down the halls and banging on the walls, being super loud and rattling door handles.

When police arrived, Cook-Ziemelis and four other juveniles, three females ages 14 and 16 and a 14-year-old male had climbed into the same Chevy Blazer. Ignoring police commands to stop, Cook-Ziemelis drove directly at officers and out of the complex and onto Main Street at a high rate of speed.

Five minutes later, multiple calls came in to 911 on reports of a reckless driver headed the wrong way at a high rate of speed on 4500 South. Two minutes after that, another call came in to dispatch on a report of a collision at 4500 South Atherton Drive in Taylorsville.

Upon arrival, police discovered a 14-year-old girl who was a passenger in Cook-Ziemelis’ car had died and the three other juveniles were seriously injured. Cook-Ziemelis had fled the scene but was apprehended about an hour later at a nearby golf course. His blood alcohol content at the time was .12.

The driver of the car which was hit said she attempted to swerve out the way, but Cook-Ziemelis swerved at the same time and accelerated towards her car. The collision caused the Blazer Cook-Ziemelis was driving to roll.

The juveniles with Cook-Ziemelis told officers they asked him to slow down and let them out but he would not and told his passengers to “shut-up, I know what I am doing,” according to documents.

Court documents state Cook-Ziemelis was convicted of 2nd-degree felony burglary in 2016 and was on parole at the time of the incident, but he had been considered AWOL after running from his placement.

Cook-Ziemelis’ next court date has not yet been determined.

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