BOZEMAN — The driver of the car that struck and killed a 76-year-old Manhattan man in October 2019 on Stagecoach Trail Road appeared Friday afternoon in District Court to change his plea to guilty for two of the four counts he is facing: vehicular homicide and leaving the scene.
Michael L. Moreno, 35, responded: “Yes,” when asked if he was driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and caused the death of Truman Emmelkamp.
Judge John Brown accepted Moreno’s change of plea.
Moreno of Manhattan, was charged with vehicular homicide, tampering with physical evidence, and failing to remain at the scene of an accident with a deceased person.
After pleading guilty to two of the four charges, the remaining two were dismissed: Tampering with evidence and false reports to police.
Moreno’s sentencing is planned for July 15, 2020.
According to court documents, around 6:40 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, Gallatin County dispatch received a report of a suspicious vehicle in the 5000 block of Churchill Road. The reporting party said the occupants of a blue Chevrolet Impala threw a case of Rainier beer out of the vehicle. The vehicle's windshield was also reportedly shattered.
Later, around 7 p.m., Moreno called 911, claiming he and his passenger, Daniel Sifuentes, were victims of a carjacking. Moreno reportedly said they had picked up a hitchhiker who held a gun to Moreno's head and stole the vehicle.
As law enforcement was interviewing Moreno about the alleged carjacking, deputies responding to a missing person report located a deceased man on the side of Stagecoach Trail Road, west of Heeb Road.
Court documents say deputies detained Moreno and Sifuentes for further questioning, given the circumstances. The two men reportedly confessed to striking the man, filing a false report, and getting rid of beer and marijuana that was in the vehicle.
Moreno allegedly also admitted that he knew he shouldn't have been driving given how much he had to drink. Court documents say deputies eventually found Moreno's vehicle, and it matched the description given in the suspicious vehicle report.
The victim's son spoke with MTN News, saying his father was a pillar in the Manhattan community and well-known in the area.
He added his father was out taking a routine, daily walk near his home when the fatal hit-and-run happened.
Moreno does have a prior DUI conviction out of Belgrade, sentenced in Jan. 30, 2018.
The passenger, Daniel Sifuentes, was sentenced to 7 years in prison earlier in the week, on June 1 in District Court.
Sifuentes, 24, faced a maximum charge of 10 years. Judge Rienne McElyea read the verdict Monday afternoon.
The defense had argued that Sifuentes was “100 percent responsible” for drinking with the driver of the vehicle that struck and killed Truman Emmelkamp, but not with the situation after the crash.