IDAHO FALLS — An Idaho Falls woman is charged with manslaughter for her alleged and indirect role in the death of Bonneville County Sheriff's Deputy Wyatt Maser.
The charges were filed Wednesday after the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed the monthslong investigation conducted by the Idaho State Police.
Jenna Holm, 35, is facing two felony charges — one for involuntary manslaughter and one for aggravated assault. This isn’t Holm’s first trouble with the law. She’s had nearly a dozen run-ins with the law — mostly minor offenses — in the last two decades.
But this case isn’t like the others.
Generally, when someone is charged with a crime, it’s because there is direct evidence the suspect caused a crime to occur. But in this case, it appears Holm is charged for creating a situation where the death of Maser happened. Maser was killed when a patrol vehicle driven by another deputy hit him while responding to the call involving Holm.
Under Idaho law, you can be charged with involuntary manslaughter when a person dies while you are involved “in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate any unlawful act.” Prosecutors used this section of the statute to charge Holm.
Holm made an initial appearance Thursday afternoon where Magistrate Jude Michelle Mallard kept bail at $100,000. Holm's biggest concern was the culpability of the deputy behind the wheel.
“The officer, is he getting charged with this as well?” Holm asked Mallard.
The judge could not answer since that decision is made by prosecutors.
The situation, which led to this case unfolded during the early morning of May 18.
The morning Deputy Wyatt Maser died
At 5:18 a.m., the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office learned of a car on its side on Bone Road near 9th South in the county, according to an affidavit of probable cause obtained by EastIdahoNews.com.
Deputy Benjamin Bottcher arrived at the scene first. He described the area as dark with no homes or lights in the area.
Within minutes of arriving, Bottcher located a woman, later identified as Holm, who was walking down the center of the road holding a machete with the tip directly under her chin. As he told her to put down the weapon, Bottcher had the witness who called in the crash drive down the road and block the intersection, an ISP detective writes in the probable cause.
At around 5:23 a.m., Bottcher notified Bonneville County dispatchers that he was following Holm, who was running south with the machete. Other deputies drove to the area to help as Holm kept moving down the middle of the road.
As he followed the woman, Bottcher repeatedly told her to put the weapon down and step to the side of the road so cars would not hit her.
Maser arrived at 5:28 a.m. from the north without his blue and red emergency lights on, but his headlights and additional lights illuminated the front of his patrol vehicle. He parked in the southbound lane of Bone Road just past the man who made the initial 911 call.
With Holms still walking, Bottcher then yelled to Maser to look out since Holms held a machete. Maser then stepped out of his patrol vehicle and reached the centerline of the roadway.
The situation escalated.
“Holm rapidly approached (Maser) with the machete raised over her head, thus committing the crime of aggravated assault,” an ISP detective writes in court documents. “Deputy Maser drew his duty weapon and commanded Holm to stop. She backed away but continued to refuse to comply with the deputies’ orders to drop the machete.”
Maser then called in to dispatch, saying he had “one at gunpoint, she has a machete.” Maser kept walking toward Holm, putting away his handgun and pulling out his Taser. When Bottcher said he had a Taser already out, Maser switched back to his pistol.
Bottcher kept following Holm in the northbound lane with Maser following in the southbound lane on the edge of the road.
Suddenly, Holm rushed forward toward the truck of the man who called 911. She hit the truck bed with the machete.
Maser again told Holm to stop, as he yelled to Bottcher to tase the woman.
Bottcher got closer to Holm and fired the Taser. Holm collapsed in the center of the road, behind the 911 caller’s pickup.
Maser immediately rushed to the middle of the road to take her into custody.
As he stepped into the middle of the road, Maser reportedly didn’t see an approaching patrol car.
Maser was hit by a vehicle driven by Sgt. Randy Flegel. This is the only time Flegel is mentioned in the probable cause documents. The documents do not contain Flegel’s recollection of the events, nor do they provide any details about the speed of the car, Flegel’s line of sight, or whether the vehicle’s lights were turned on.
Flegel has not been charged and his status in relation to this case is unknown. Both sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Bryan Lovell and prosecutor Daniel Clark said they could not talk about Flegel as it is an ongoing case.
Following Maser being hit, an Idaho Falls Fire Department ambulance was called to the scene as deputies tried to perform life-saving measures on Maser. The ambulance arrived at around 5:41 a.m., and Maser was reported as dead at the scene before they transported his body to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.
Based on Holm’s actions, ISP said that by law, she “committed involuntary manslaughter when Maser was struck and killed while trying to detain Holm and make a safe situation for Holm,” the probable cause reads.
Holm was ultimately detained and taken to the Bonneville County Jail. At the time of the incident, Holm was on probation for a felony third-degree arson conviction and a felony burglary conviction, according to the Idaho Department of Correction.
Bonneville County held Holm in jail on an alleged probation violation until charging her this week.
Maser’s death drew national attention, bringing the U.S. Honor Flag to Idaho Falls. Thousands of people lined the streets as the procession went from Wood Funeral home in Ammon to Fielding Memorial Park Cemetery in Idaho Falls. Law enforcement officers and other first responders from across Idaho and Wyoming attended his funeral.
Lovell could not comment if any internal investigation is ongoing regarding the incident. Additionally, Bonneville County denied EastIdahoNews.com’s request for all reports, dash camera footage and body camera footage related to Maser’s death, citing their involvement in the investigatory process.
If convicted of felony involuntary manslaughter, Holm could be ordered to spend up to 10 years in prison, pay a $10,000 fine and $5,000 in restitution. Felony aggravated assault holds a maximum of five years in prison if convicted. A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 23 before Magistrate Judge Steven Gardner.