Columbia Falls Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Vehicular Assault

Susan Pajnich was allegedly driving a rental truck when she hit a woman who had stopped to help an injured cat

By Justin Franz

A Columbia Falls woman has denied allegations that she hit a woman with a rental truck while driving under the influence of alcohol.

Susan Pajnich pleaded not guilty to charges of negligent vehicular assault and criminal endangerment on Sept. 18 in Flathead County District Court.

According to court documents, Pajnich was driving a Budget rental truck on South Hilltop Road near Columbia Falls on Aug. 23 when she hit a woman, later identified as Samantha Stover, who had stopped to help an injured cat in the roadway. The rental truck left the scene of the accident immediately. Stover was transported to Kalispell Regional Medical Center where she was treated for serious head trauma.

Police tracked the rental truck down to Pajnich’s home. The vehicle had two large scuffmarks on the bumper and a large red spot, which appeared to be blood, on the vehicle’s front suspension. While talking with Pajnich, the officer noticed that she smelled like alcohol and was uneasy on her feet. She was taken to North Valley Hospital and a blood test determined that her blood alcohol level was 0.28, more than three times the legal limit. Later, Pajnich said she remembered feeling a large bump when she was driving on South Hilltop Road.

If convicted she could face 20 years in prison and a fine of $60,000. A trial has been set for March.



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