NewsCrime & Courts


Court hearing rescheduled in Mika Westwolf fatal hit-and-run case

Mika Westwolf
Lake County District Judge Molly Owen
Posted at 7:23 PM, Jan 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-25 11:03:55-05

POLSON — The defendant charged with vehicular homicide in the death of Arlee woman Mika Westwolf, did not appear at a scheduled court appearance Wednesday in Lake County District Court.

Sunny K. White, who pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide and other charges, was ordered to appear at the Lake County Courthouse for an omnibus hearing on Jan. 24.

However, both White and her defense attorney, Missoula Public Defender Meghan Benson, were not present.

An omnibus hearing is a pretrial hearing where plea agreements and other case matters are discussed.

During Wednesday's hearing, Lake County Judge Molly Owen stated that Benson emailed a filed motion to continue, seeking to postpone the court date, at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 23 — the day before the scheduled hearing.

Judge Owen stated she was working in Thompson Falls on Tuesday and did not see the emailed motion until the morning of White's omnibus hearing which kept the hearing on the court docket.

Both the prosecution and the defense shared that White's new attorney, Benson, was at another hearing in Mineral County instead of appearing in Lake County or via Zoom with White. There was no mention of where White was.

Judge Owen stated her frustration during the hearing, "A person who is charged with vehicular homicide facing 20 years, 30 years, doesn't bother showing up when the court has ordered her specifically to come... it's infuriating."

Since White did not show up in court after she was mandated to do so, a warrant could have been issued for her arrest.

However, prosecuting Lake County attorney James Lapotka did not pursue that warrant.

Mika Westwolf's mother, Carissa Heavy Runner, told MTN News, "It was very disappointing, and clearly the judge was disappointed as well." "[White] was supposed to be here. Sunny White had to be present. I'm upset that she's not being reprimanded," Heavy Runner continued.

Heavy Runner and the Mika Matters Movement, the group seeking justice for Mika Westwolf and other Missing and Murdered Indigenous People, say they do not want a plea to be taken. They would like to go to trial. "Sunny White needs to be made the example," Heavy Runner emphasized.

Judge Owen signed the continuance and rescheduled the omnibus hearing for February 28, 2024.

She also issued an order to show cause why Benson should not be held in contempt of court for missing the January 24 date. That hearing will also take place on Feb. 28.

Additionally, Judge Owen stated that White no longer has the option to use Zoom to attend court hearings and must appear in person for the remainder of the case or face a warrant.

White is charged with five felonies — vehicular homicide while under the influence, accidents involving another person or deceased person, two counts of criminal child endangerment, and a count of criminal possession of dangerous drugs.