Trial underway for boat owner in Pineview swimmer's death
Courts • Owner of boat that allegedly struck Fujimoto in Pineview Reservoir in 2011 tried separately.
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Ogden • Opening statements began about 2:30 p.m. Monday in a jury trial for one of three men charged in a boating accident at Pineview Reservoir that killed a University of Utah scientist.

Colton Raines, 23, Robert Cole Boyer, 30, and Skyler Shepherd, 22, are charged with misdemeanor counts in connection to the death of Esther Fujimoto, who was struck by a boat on Aug. 21, 2011, while she was swimming in the reservoir, located seven miles east of Ogden.

However, the three-day trial set to play out this week is only for Shepherd, the owner of the boat which allegedly struck 49-year-old Fujimoto, and the only one of the three men who spoke to police about the accident.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in 2nd District Court, the three men were boating near the Spring Creek Cove area of Pineview Reservoir at about 8 p.m. when their boat hit Fujimoto, who was swimming about 300 feet from shore. Shepherd allegedly told police that Raines was driving the boat at the time of the accident, but when they circled back to check on the woman, Shepherd took the wheel. Shepherd told police that Fujimoto told them she was OK, so the boaters left.

But Fujimoto was far from being OK.

Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey testified during a July preliminary hearing that Fujimoto had suffered severe injuries to her lower abdomen, and that her legs were "chopped to pieces," her femoral artery had been cut and she was bleeding to death.

Fujimoto — a U. lab specialist who was part of a research team that found a gene connected to breast cancer — died soon after a lakeshore resident rowed out to rescue her after hearing screams.

According to court documents, the boaters were questioned by wildlife officials that day, but did not disclose that were involved in an accident. The men also allegedly wiped down the boat before it could be examined by police.

All three men are charged with a class A misdemeanor count of obstructing justice. In addition, Raines and Shepherd are charged with reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor, and failure to render aid, a class B misdemeanor.

In August, Judge Ernie Jones ruled that Shepherd could be tried separately from Boyer and Raines. Defense attorney Rebecca Hyde Skordas, who represents Boyer, said in August that they sought the severance of the trials because Shepherd could not be cross-examined about his statement to police if all three defendants were tried together.

Shepherd's defense attorney, Glen Neeley, supported the severing of the trials.

In an August court filing, Neeley outlined several hypothetical situations in which separate trials would benefit all the defendants, including the probability that one defendant would blame the conduct on another defendant. In addition, there is likely to be testimony that Boyer and Raines allegedly used illegal drugs prior to the accident, activity that Neeley said Shepherd did not engage in.

The trial for Boyer and Raines is scheduled to be held in February.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller