Judge fatally strikes cyclist. Family files wrongful death lawsuit.
Judge Shannon Murdock of New Mexico is being sued for wrongful death after hitting two cyclists with her vehicle last year. She was not charged with a crime. However, the family of Billy Weinman, 67, would like some justice in the case.
The family said has alleged Murdock turned over her personal cellphone to officers after the incident but did not tell them that she had a second, state-issued phone. They’ve contended the incident took place on a Saturday, and Murdock was driving to a work meeting, traveling at a high rate of speed.
“He called me Saturday morning and said I feel like I need to get a little work out in,” said Karl Baumgartner, a friend of Weinman’s who was with him and critically injured. He stated, “And I said, well do you wanna go for a hike? And, he said no, let’s just go on a little bike ride.”
Baumgartner was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where he was treated for cracked vertebrae, broken ribs, and a torn calf. A recorded 911 call confirmed Murdock was traveling on Highway 60 at the time.
“Are you on the roadway?” a dispatcher asked.
Murdock replied, “Yeah. 60. There were two bicyclists and I hit them.”
“They were both knocked pretty hard. It was instantaneous for my brother,” said Irene Weinman, Billy’s sister.
A witness, Kristie Chavez, told investigators the judge was driving erratically. She claimed the judge was swerving in and out of her lane, and when she attempted to pass the vehicle, the judge nearly swerved right into her. The same witness said when she and the judge, as well as another vehicle, approached the cyclists on interstate 60, the road was straight, and the weather was clear. The cyclists were riding in the “white lane at the far-right edge of the roadway.”
Chavez moved over a lane as she approached the cyclists, as did the unidentified vehicle. However, she said she witnessed in her rearview mirror that Murdock did not slow down nor move into another lane. She struck them, and Billy would ultimately pass from blunt forced trauma to his head, neck, back and hip.
Investigators found no sign of an attempt to avoid hitting them. Investigators asked for the phone, and the device Murdock turned over showed she was not on it at the time. Officers also concluded the judge was not impaired. The lawsuit claims, “Murdock failed to even advise law enforcement she had a second phone and that it remained in constant use in the days and months after the crash.”
“Having your phone put in airplane mode and seized is part of the crash investigation,” a deputy can be heard saying in lapel video.
The suit says Murdock was negligent and reckless while acting in the scope of her job and says, as a result, ended in the death of Billy Weinman. It contends both men were wearing helmets and bright colored vests at the time, and they had ridden the route many times prior to the incident.
His sister said, “He was so much fun. He laughed. He enjoyed life. You know, the sunsets and the sunrises. And everything in between.”