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MCSO: Hit-and-run driver impaired by Ambien

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MESA, AZ (CBS5) -

A Maricopa County grand jury has indicted a 73-year-old Payson woman on charges stemming from two fatal accidents on Mesa's Usury Pass on April 3.

According to a report by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Marie Blandford was not under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs at the time, but she was impaired by a common sleeping pill.

The first accident she's accused of causing involved a 46-year-old married mother of four.

Clare Kirby was riding in a bicycle lane when MCSO said Blandford's Kia Soul, traveling at least 39 mph, slammed into the back of her bike near the Bush Hwy.

Kirby died at the scene.

"Her windshield is broken out," one caller reported to 911 right after the first accident. "She's still going and swerving all over the place."

The MCSO report states Blandford never stopped and continued on Usury Pass where she caused a second accident at the intersection of Ellsworth and McKellips.

According to the report, Blandford failed to stop at a red light and T-boned a pick-up truck, killing its driver, 72-year-old William Phillips.

Blandford was taken to Scottsdale Osborn Hospital with severe injuries.

MCSO obtained a search warrant, the day of the accidents, for a blood draw on Blandford.

Test results show she had the sleep-aid Ambien in her system.

According to the MCSO report, Blandford  told a detective, who visited her in the hospital, she was driving from Payson to Mesa to meet her daughter for a doctor's appointment.

When questioned by the detective about the hit and run death of Kirby, Blandford told the detective she remembered drifting off the road, and something smashing into her windshield.

She told him she didn't know what broke her windshield, or where she was when that happened.

MCSO turned the case over to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office on June 5, recommending Blandford be charged with two counts of manslaughter and one count of leaving the scene of an at-fault, fatal accident.

On Aug. 8, a grand jury indicted her on two counts of manslaughter and one count of leaving the scene of a fatal crash.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office released the indictment on Tuesday morning.

MCAO spokesman Jerry Cobb told CBS5 News, "Blandford has not been arrested, but she has been summoned to appear. Her attorney filed a motion to continue the proceedings and waive her presence to allow her to recover from surgery and undergo an examination to determine her mental capacity. The court granted the motion and has set a new date for her arraignment on Oct. 24."

Another observation obtained from MCSO's report: witnesses to the crash that killed Kirby said they saw Blandford driving "all over the road" miles before the accident.

But no one called 911 to report an erratic driver until after the damage was done.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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