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Local woman charged with manslaughter

Daily News Staff Writer

A Ketchikan woman has been charged with manslaughter, assault and driving under the influence in connection with a March car crash in which a passenger was fatally injured.

Jolene Lapinski, 43, was arraigned in Ketchikan Superior Court on Monday. Bail was set at $2,500 performance and $5,000 appearance, with Lapinski’s release requiring that she post all of the former amount and 10 percent of the latter. Lapinski’s attorney entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

The single-vehicle crash took place March 18 on North Tongass Highway by Whipple Creek. Michelle Verney, 26, died from her injuries following the crash, according to the Alaska State Troopers. Lapinski and another passenger, a 36-year-old man, were also injured.

Ketchikan District Attorney Tim McGillicuddy said during Monday’s arraignment that Lapinski, Verney and the man had been drinking together north of Ketchikan and that Lapinski then drove the group toward town.

“On the way back into town … she stopped at a house, she went inside that house,” McGillicuddy said. “And according to [the male passenger], … she was very impaired from a different substance when she came out. And then she got behind the wheel, started driving very fast and very dangerously, jerking the vehicle back forth on the roadway.”

Lapinski was asked to slow down and to pull over, but didn’t do so, McGillicuddy said.

The car swerved across the northbound lane, hit a guardrail and rolled off the road. All three occupants were transported to the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, and Verney died at the hospital, an AST dispatch states.

Lapinski was indicted by a grand jury on Nov. 21 for manslaughter and first-degree assault. The manslaughter count charges that Lapinski “recklessly caused the death of Michelle Verney.” The assault count charges that she “recklessly caused serious physical injury to [the male passenger] by means of a dangerous instrument.” Both charges are class A felonies.

On Nov. 20, McGillicuddy charged Lapinski with driving under the influence, a misdemeanor. McGillicuddy said on Monday that Lapinski’s blood-alcohol content had been measured at 0.155 percent — roughly twice the legal limit — following the crash. He noted that, in this case, the state doesn’t have blood test results for substances other than alcohol.

On Nov. 27, Lapinski was served a court summons for a Nov. 30 arraignment. She failed to appear at the arraignment, and Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens issued a $15,000 warrant for her arrest. Lapinski was subsequently arrested.

Lapinski’s attorney, Katrina Larsen, said during Monday’s arraignment that she believed the missed arraignment was the result of a confusion, not a desire to miss court.

Larsen also noted that court documents mistakenly refer to Lapinski by a former name, “Jolene Kantrud.” Stephens said that he would amend the documents.

Also on Monday, Stephens scheduled a calendar call for Jan. 29 and a trial for Feb. 11.

Lapinski’s next court appearance is an omnibus hearing on at 1 p.m. on Dec. 27.