A judge has ordered a mental evaluation for a Butte woman accused of burning people with sage and striking others with her SUV in the Big M parking lot before leading police on a high-speed chase in August.
Because of questions about her mental state, District Judge Robert Whelan entered not guilty pleas Wednesday on behalf of 32-year-old Athena Lynn Smith even though she was present in court with her public defender, Ed Sheehy. She had dark coloring around her eyes and on the sides of her face.
Smith faces eight counts of felony criminal endangerment, five felony counts of criminal mischief, one felony count of assaulting an officer and two misdemeanor charges. If convicted of all charges, she could be sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.
Smith is being held on $500,000 bond but will undergo the mental evaluation at the Montana State Hospital in Galen before further court proceedings. But Whelan tentatively set the next hearing for Dec. 4.
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According to prosecutors, Smith drove to a parking area next to the Big M, also called Big Butte, on Aug. 6 and confronted several youths who were gathered to remember a friend who had died. Some appeared to be drinking, police say.
She tried to smudge several of them with sage, called them sinners and punched one girl in the stomach and grabbed her by the throat, witnesses said. She then got into her SUV and drove erratically, smashing into cars and striking people. Four were taken to the hospital with injuries.
Smith then led police on a high-speed chase, at one point driving her car directly at an officer in a patrol car, before coming to a stop in a driveway on Western Avenue, prosecutors say. She then kicked and punched several officers as they tried to arrest her.
While an ambulance employee was checking on her at the jail, she told him she had consumed “a bunch of meth,” according to charging documents.