By: Patti Weaver
(Stillwater, Okla.) — A Glencoe man, who was scheduled to stand trial this week on a second-degree murder charge, has waived his right to have a jury decide whether he caused a fatal head-on collision on Highway 33 east of Perkins three years ago by driving under the influence of alcohol.
Tyler Forest Ryba, 27, who remains free on bail, was ordered by Payne County Associate District Judge Stephen Kistler to return to court on July 6 to enter a plea or have a non-jury trial scheduled, court records show.
If convicted of causing the death of Karen Nelson, 59, of Stillwater, by drunken driving after a prior DUI conviction, Ryba could be given a prison term of 10 years to life.
The victim was pronounced dead at the scene of the 4:59 am May 23, 2018, collision on Highway 33 about 350 feet east of Fairgrounds Road, two miles east of Perkins, according to a preliminary report from the Department of Public Safety.
Ryba was pinned for 20 to 25 minutes in his vehicle before being freed by the Perkins Fire Department and then transported by medical helicopter to a trauma center in Oklahoma City, the report said.
Ryba was driving a 2010 Chevrolet Impala west on Highway 33, while Nelson was driving a 2014 Chevrolet Sonic east on Highway 33 when the collision occurred in the eastbound lane, the report said.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Colby Martens learned from a medical professional with LifeNet EMS that “he noticed the odor of alcohol coming from Ryba and that Ryba admitted to drinking,” OHP Trooper Matthew Ledbetter, who is a traffic homicide investigator, alleged in an affidavit.
“Ryba informed (OHP Trooper Eric) Blades that he had been at a friend’s house in Cushing throughout the night and that he had consumed alcohol during that time,” the affidavit alleged.
“Ryba failed to remain in his lane and crossed the centerline in a no-passing zone when he struck the Chevrolet Sonic killing Karen Nelson,” the affidavit alleged.
According to court records, three years earlier, Ryba was charged with possessing methamphetamine and driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance on Highway 51 west of Council Valley Road on July 28, 2015.
A year later, Ryba pleaded guilty to his felony drug charge, for which he was placed on five years’ probation under a deferred sentence with an order to comply with the methamphetamine registry, undergo random drug tests, attend a victim impact panel, perform 50 hours of community service and pay $1,250 in assessments. For his misdemeanor DUI count to which he pleaded guilty, Ryba was given a one-year suspended sentence with an order to pay $450 in assessments, court records show.