Ex-girlfriend of killer faces obstruction trial

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The former girlfriend of a man sentenced to life in prison for killing a Utah police officer has been ordered to stand trial on obstruction of justice charges.

A judge ruled Tuesday there is sufficient evidence to send Traci Vaillancourt, 35, to trial, The Deseret News reported (http://bit.ly/1pqDPx8).

The ruling came after a preliminary hearing where prosecutors laid out a series of conflicting and sometimes misleading statements Vaillancourt gave after the September shooting of 32-year-old Draper police Sgt. Derek Johnson.

Prosecutors say Timothy Troy Walker killed Johnson then shot Vaillancourt in the back and himself in the jaw. She was charged because authorities said she wasn't truthful about what happened.

Vaillancourt's attorney, Ryan Holtan, said she wasn't trying to impede the investigation but was under physical and mental stress. The first police interview of his client came less than 10 hours after she had been shot, he said.

"She was on heavy medication that the police discontinued so that they could conduct an interview with her," Holtan said.

Vaillancourt initially said she didn't know about a police officer being shot and said somebody from Walker's past probably shot her and Walker, police Sgt. Michael Ikemiyashiro testified.

Vaillancourt also told investigators she had a seizure and was on her way to a hospital when the shooting occurred but later changed her story and said they were on their way to her sister's house, Ikemiyashiro said.

"The timeline was definitely an issue," he said.

Earlier this year, Vaillancourt told KSL-TV in a phone interview from the Salt Lake County Jail that her longtime relationship with 34-year-old Walker was a mess marked by drug use and years of physical, mental and emotional abuse. She said she has forgiven Walker for shooting her but not for shooting the officer.

The shooting occurred after Johnson stopped to investigate a disabled vehicle in the Salt Lake City suburb of Draper. Walker was standing outside the car with Vaillancourt, when Johnson drove up in his patrol car and lowered his passenger-side window.

Walker shot Johnson in the chest then turned the gun on Vaillancourt and himself, prosecutors said.


Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com

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