Woman sought in fatal 2020 DUI appears in court

Joan Kathryn Wenger

Joan Kathryn Wenger


A Reno woman accused in a fatal 2020 DUI collision is in Douglas County custody after being the subject of a six-month nationwide search.

Joan Kathryn Wenger, 66, was brought back to the county on Thursday on a warrant issued in connection with a Feb. 28, 2020, collision on Highway 395 and Johnson Lane.

Wenger was the subject of national news coverage after The Record-Courier reported she was being sought in connection with the collision.

Wenger appeared in East Fork Justice Court on Friday where attorney Brian Filter was appointed to represent her.

She is charged with one count of felony vehicular homicide and felony driving under the influence.

Judge Steve McMorris, sitting as East Fork Justice of the Peace, set a June 17 preliminary hearing and an update hearing on Wednesday. Wenger’s bail was ordered to remain at $25,000.

Dayton resident Laura Staugaard was killed in the collision. Her son received a fractured vertebra as a result. Wenger was transported for treatment and taken into custody three hours after the collision and then released.

Wenger has driving under the influence convictions in November 2009 in Tahoe Township, June 2012 in Ely and October 2018 in Washoe County. In Nevada a third DUI conviction in seven years is a felony. 

Prosecutor Patrick Ferguson indicated that the District Attorney’s Office will likely seek an increase in her bail on Wednesday when Filter is there to represent her.

According to court documents, Wenger told a trooper she was driving from Mammoth Lakes and had three beers. 

A preliminary breath test indicated a .291 blood alcohol content, while a later blood test showed a .308. The legal limit in Nevada is .08.

Wenger’s license was suspended for failure to have proof of insurance. According to the NHP, Wenger’s driving privileges had been withdrawn 26 different times since 2000.


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