Public defender appointed in traffic-death case

By David Knopf/Richmond News

Robert Aliff, 39, charged with involuntary manslaughter in the May 2011 motor-vehicle death of 59-year-old Bruce Sodders, made his first in-person appearance in criminal court Tuesday.

Like Sodders, Aliff is a Richmond resident.

One order of business Tuesday was the court’s appointment of Public Defender Melinda Troeger as counsel. Aliff told the court that he expected a private attorney to represent him, but none had formally entered at the time of the hearing.

Aliff was arraigned earlier at Ray County Jail during a video-conference conducted by Associate Judge James Thompson. Aliff maintained his not-guilty plea on Tuesday and is being held on a $30,000 cash-only bond. He’s scheduled to return to court Dec. 4 at 8:30 a.m.

The involuntary manslaughter charge, a B felony, stems from a head-on collision between Aliff’s 1996 Jeep Cherokee and a Chevrolet Corsica driven by Gladys Stafford. Acccording to a police account, Aliff’s Jeep crossed the center line of Business 10, just east of Swafford Road. Sodders, a passenger of Stafford’s, was pronounced dead at the scene. Stafford sustained moderate injuries and was eventually transported by ambulance helicopter to Liberty Hospital.

It was originally alleged that Aliff fell asleep at the wheel, but according to court documents a test conducted during his hospital stay in Richmond revealed amphetamines and marijuana in his system.


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