County attorney pledges improvement following Dahlin case resolution

Letters to the Editor
Thursday, August 30, 2018
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At approximately 10:26 p.m. on July 26, 2016, a 22-year-old motorist named Tyler Tate Dahlin was involved in a single-vehicle rollover accident at mile marker 8 along Montana Highway 314 near Decker in Big Horn County. Also involved in this crash was Dahlin’s passenger and girlfriend, 23-year-old Anna Rowland.

Tragically, Anna was pronounced dead at the scene and the county coroner later ruled her death as caused by blunt force trauma to the head. Trooper Dave Munson of the Montana Highway Patrol led the on scene investigation into the circumstances surrounding the wreck. He concluded as the vehicle (a 1999 Chevrolet Blazer sport utility vehicle) entered a long left-hand curve, it began to veer off the right side of the road momentarily, and an overcorrection to the left caused the vehicle to engage in a “broad side slide” across both lanes of the highway, eventually rolling two complete times.

The Highway Patrol investigation concluded that factors contributing to this accident included driving in an erratic, reckless, negligent or aggressive manner, impairment due to alcohol or drugs, failure to maintain proper lane travel, the passenger possibly distracting the driver, and over-steering. Tyler Dahlin claimed that Anna had leaned over to kiss him, leading to his loss of control.

Dahlin was charged in February 2017, initially pleading not guilty to vehicular homicide in the Big Horn County District Court. He eventually pleaded guilty to negligent endangerment and careless driving resulting in death at the Big Horn County Justice Court in July 2018.

Unfortunately, my office failed to provide any notification of the July 2018 change of plea and sentencing hearing in the County Justice Court to Randy Rowland, the surviving father of Anna Rowland.

Randy previously had expressed disappointment in the proposed resolution of the case and great interest in addressing the sentencing judge. The lack of notification to Randy Rowland was an unfortunate complication to the extraordinary grief and loss the family of Anna Rowland must live with the rest of their lives.

For the family of Anna Rowland, now is a time of great hardship and – God willing, in time – healing. As far too many Big Horn County citizens know, coping with the unexpected loss of a loved one due to tragedy on the roads is a lifelong process and not an easy one at that. Accordingly, we must give great latitude to the surviving family members of this tragic loss. The family of Anna Rowland and all those in our community who have experienced similar losses due to accidents on public roadways must be embraced with love and respect, more so now than ever.

Nothing can be said to defend the failure to notify Randy Rowland. What should be pointed out is that being a public prosecutor is often not an easy job – it is thankless and very stressful for anyone engaged in this daily grind that cares for the community; they are at duty to help protect.

In Big Horn County, the forces of injustice are constantly attacking the promise and hope of our ideals and wishes for a better community.

My office will get better in this fight for justice – we absolutely must. We all know in life that great challenges require great efforts in order to achieve success. With a foundation of prayer and faith driving an unrelenting commitment to justice, focused by clarity of vision and dynamic thinking, we can help lay the groundwork for a revitalized community and help restore a real sense of justice, public safety, and law and order.

We will continue the good fight, and get better each and every day.

Big Horn County truly deserves better.

Jay Harris

Big Horn County Attorney