COEUR d’ALENE — The decision of a Coeur d’Alene court to dismiss a felony against a Spokane woman who failed to report the death of her friend from a drug overdose withstood the scrutiny of the state supreme court.
The Idaho Supreme Court last week upheld the decision of First District Judge Richard Christensen, who dismissed the felony against Laura Akins. Akins was charged with failing to notify authorities of the death of 27-year-old Kimberly Sue Vezina, whose body was found in November 2015 wrapped in a tarp floating in Lake Coeur d’Alene west of Harrison.
Christensen held, and the justices agreed, that Akins’ prosecution for failing to notify authorities would have violated her privilege under the Fifth Amendment against self incrimination.
The felony is punishable by up to five years behind bars.
After a lengthy investigation by Kootenai County investigators, Akins and Lacy N. Drake were charged with secretly disposing of Vezina’s body after the 27-year-old died of an overdose in the bathroom of a Spokane Valley drug house.
Drake, of Spokane Valley, pleaded guilty in May to failing to notify authorities of Vezina’s death. Akins, who was charged with the same felony, pleaded guilty to unlawful entry resulting from the break-in of a house at Fuller’s Bay before the women returned to Spokane in a stolen “burner” car provided by drug dealers.
According to court records, Akins and Drake were chosen by occupants of the house to take the bundled body — which had been wrapped in a shower curtain and tarp — to Lake Coeur d’Alene, tie it to a bag of cement and drop it into the lake at Fuller’s Bay.
The body was found a month later in November 2015 by fishermen and reported to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.
Akins served 30 days in jail for the misdemeanor, but the felony was dismissed after Christensen considered a motion by defense attorneys who argued that Akins’ Fifth Amendment right would have been violated had she been prosecuted for the felony.
Prosecutors appealed the court’s decision, but Supreme Court justices upheld Christensen’s ruling.
In his decision, Justice Roger Burdick wrote that Akins did not have the ability to inform law enforcement of the body and its location without informing them that she had destroyed evidence.
“With this in mind we find it difficult to invent a more substantial hazard of self incrimination …” Burdick wrote. Justices Joel Horton, G. Richard Bevan and Jonathan Medema concurred.