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Negligent homicide case headed to youth court

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POLSON – A 17-year-old youth will face a negligent homicide charge in Lake County Youth Court following Judge James A. Manley’s Feb. 21 decision to transfer the case from district court.

Chasen Curley is charged in the hit-and-run death of 3-year-old Phillip Shourds Jr. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 2016, at a Pablo trailer court.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Youth Court originally declined to prosecute the case in an order dated Nov. 28.

According to a court document, Curley said he was backing up his vehicle when he felt a collision with what he believed was a bicycle. Curley said he heard a man yell at him that he had just run over his child. Curley said he was afraid and fled the scene.

In an emotional hearing on Feb. 8, several witnesses testified, including Cheryl Cheff, Shourds’ aunt. Cheff asked the judge to leave the case in adult court.

In his order, Manley said youth court will serve the best interests of community protection because it provides for a reduced likelihood of a future re-offense.

Lake County Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Barbara Monaco testified in favor of trying the case in district court. She said youth court could supervise Curley until age 21 and then the supervision can be transferred to district court until he’s 25.

Curley testified that he lives with foster parents, Jasmine and Cody Bull, plays basketball at Two Eagle River School and would like to go to college.

Curley described his rough upbringing. His mother, Valdena Curley, has no legal right to him and is in prison, he said. Curley met his father, Josh Lefthand, during his eighth-grade year. His father is in Lewistown receiving treatment, Curley said.

Curley said he grew up believing that his aunt and uncle, Brenda and Virgil Redrock, were his parents and didn’t find out until age 5 that they weren’t. He lived with them and six other children for eight years.

He later spent two years in a “lockdown facility” and then lived in group homes in Lewistown, Ronan and Kalispell.

Rosemary Epperson, a mental health therapist for CSKT tribal health, testified as an expert witness.

She said Curley has severe reactive detachment disorder. “He hasn’t been able to form attachments and bonds,” she said.

The disorder can create a fight or flight response, she said, and a side effect is a very high sense of shame, which goes along with not being able to connect with others.

Epperson said Curley is emotionally stunted, and it’s in his best interest to be prosecuted in youth court.

“The best practice for attachment is family work,” she said, adding that she will continue to work with Curley.

Defense attorney Ashley Morigeau, who petitioned to move the case to youth court, said, “My fear is there is going to be the death of two kids.”

Curley, who is also charged with leaving the scene of an accident, turns 18 on March 22.

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