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Montana man pleads not guilty to manslaughter, DUII charges in fiery Hwy. 97 crash that killed Portland-area family

Jesse Carl Ross appears by video from jail for December 2023 hearing
KTVZ file
Jesse Carl Ross appears by video from jail for December 2023 hearing

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A 43-year-old Montana man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to seven charges, including four counts of manslaughter and one of DUII, in a fiery head-on collision last fall that killed a Troutdale family of four on U.S. Highway 97 north of Redmond.

Deschutes County Circuit Judge Randy Miller scheduled a Jan. 21 start for an eight-day jury trial of Jesse Carl Ross, who also is charged with recklessly endangering another person and reckless driving. He remains held on $2 million bail at the county jail in Bend, where he turned himself in last December after an arrest warrant was issued.

Oregon State Police said Ross was driving a Chevy Silverado northbound on the highway around 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 when he crossed the center line, sideswiped a southbound semi-truck and trailer and struck a Toyota RAV4 driven by Gary Rutledge, 57, head-on.

The SUV caught fire and became fully engulfed after the crash, which occurred about two miles south of Terrebonne.

Rutledge, his wife Michelle, 53, and their two children, Kate, 15, and Ryan, 17, both Reynolds High School students, died at the scene. They had been on their way to Central Oregon to view the annular eclipse.

Last last year, a judge rejected a defense attorney's request to lower Ross's bail, after a tearful plea from a family member of the victims. A defense attorney had noted he had no criminal record and was seriously injured in the crash. A prosecutor noted he was found to have a number of controlled substances in his system and had consumed alcohol.

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts

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