A Nampa man who killed a Boise couple in a head-on crash on Idaho 21 on Sunday — and later died at a hospital — was not supposed to be behind the wheel of a car at all, according to court records.
Jerry Lee Neher, 51, had his driver’s license suspended from Sept. 29, 2018, through Sept. 28, 2021, for failure to obtain insurance, court records show. He had nine convictions for driving without privileges since 2010, and two such charges pending from July and August.
Last Sunday, Neher was driving south on Idaho 21 when he caused a collision that killed Peter TanoRikiho, 67, and his wife, Lelelewa TanoRikiho, 60, who died at the scene of the crash, police said.
In early August, Neher pleaded guilty in Canyon County to two driving-without-privileges charges from January and May of this year. He did not spend any time in jail, despite a December 2018 court notice in Valley County that he would have to serve 20 days to a year in jail if convicted of a second driving-without-privileges charge within five years, and 30 days to a year in jail if convicted of a third one.
His most recent arrest came on Aug. 13, when he was charged with three misdemeanors: driving without privileges, possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use and evidence destruction. His lengthy criminal history includes convictions for manufacturing a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and grand theft.
The fatal crash on Sunday was reported at about 3:20 p.m.
Idaho State Police investigators said that Neher’s 2007 Chevy Trailblazer crossed the center line near Hilltop Station and veered into oncoming traffic, causing a collision with the TanoRikihos’ 2012 Toyota Rav 4.
Neher’s vehicle caught fire. He was taken by ground ambulance to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, where he died.
Police are still investigating the crash and have not released any information on whether alcohol or drugs are suspected as a factor.
“Toxicology is pending and will take several weeks to return results,” the office manager for the Ada County Coroner’s Office told the Statesman via email.
Peter TanoRikiho was well-known to employees and customers of the Boise Co-op, where he was employed for three decades. He worked at the store on Hill Road, the North End store and, in the past few years, the store at The Village at Meridian. He worked as an associate in the produce department.
“I think one of the most awesome things about Peter is he always had time to really listen to people, and always had something kind to say,” Co-op marketing manager Mo Valko told the Statesman on Wednesday afternoon.
A memory board set up in the produce section of the North End store is now covered with comments from staff and customers. “You were the definition of kindness and love,” one person wrote.
“Peter always made me feel like I was the most important thing on his mind when we talked,” another person wrote. “He was so warm and kind. I will miss him.”
TanoRikiho loved music and he played the harmonium, Valko said. He was a chant master for the spiritual group Amaraji Maha Marai, according to his Facebook page. He listed Chicago as his hometown and indicated that he studied at UNLV.
Lelelewa said on her Facebook page that she’s from Erie, Kansas, went to Skyline High School in Idaho Falls, and studied psychology at Boise State University.
Amaraji Maha Maraj was founded in 1971 and has about 70 members, according to Mother Shayshoshewa Dawe, who is also head of the Sacred Mountain Monastery Society of the Compassionate Heart.
Dawe said Lelelewa TanoRikiho was involved in the congregation — an off-shoot of Buddhism — for 35 years, including 20 years as an assistant minister. She owned a business called Wisdom Tree.
“She was a woman of great love and great wisdom. She always helped her students to find their heart and to live their dreams,” Dawe said. “She will be deeply missed.”
Dawe said that although police indicated the TanoRikihos were Boise residents, they actually lived south of Idaho City in Boise County. Both had offices in Boise, she said.
Family and friends of the TanoRikihos are invited to a celebration-of-life memorial service on Saturday, Sept. 7. It will run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Boise Unitarian Universalist Church, 6200 N. Garrett St.