Woman to stand trial in deaths of 2 Michigan bicyclists

IONIA, Mich. (AP) — A woman has been ordered to stand trial on second-degree murder and other charges after five bicyclists were struck by her vehicle as they rode in a summer charity event in western Michigan.

Ionia County District Judge Raymond Voet said during a preliminary hearing Thursday that Mandy Benn was intoxicated by a “cocktail of drugs,” despite testimony that she had only therapeutic levels of medication in her system, MLive.com reported.

Voet also said Benn, 42, acted with a “wanton and willful … disregard of life.”

Ionia County Prosecutor Kyle Butler has said Benn was trying to pass a UPS truck on July 30 on a rural road in Ronald Township when she crossed the center line and hit the bicyclists who were participating in a three-day endurance ride for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Ronald Township is northeast of Grand Rapids.

Benn had no alcohol in her system but had slurred speech and couldn’t follow instructions, said Butler, who added that there was evidence she used prescription drugs.

Edward Erickson, 48, of Ann Arbor, and Michael Salhaney, 57, of Bloomfield Hills, were killed. Three other men were hurt.

WZZM-TV reported that a woman who lives along the road where the bicyclists were struck witnessed the crash.

“My window faces the road, and I saw a body flying through the air,” testified Shoni Mayle.

After the bicyclists were hit, Benn appeared confused and disoriented, Ionia County sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Phillip Hesche testified.

“She looked right at me, and she says, ‘Wow, officer that almost looks real,'” Hesche said. “I was really taken aback by that. It was like she was on a different planet.”

Geoffrey French, a state police toxicology unit supervisor, testified that three prescription drugs were found in Benn’s system. Prosecutors said she did not have a prescription for one of drugs.

French agreed with defense attorney Walter Downes that there were therapeutic levels of medication in her system. “None of the results were super, super large,” French testified.

But the medications can have adverse effects, he said while being questioned by the prosecution.