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More than a dozen witnesses described the scene and the aftermath of the car crash that killed a 14-year-old boy in James City County during the trial of the driver, who faces seven criminal charges related to the accident.
Gary Jerome Turner, a 39-year-old Hampton man, is accused of being under the influence of marijuana and cocaine when he crashed a 1997 Ford minivan into a telephone pole on Aug. 8, 2011.
The crash injured five people — a 3-month old girl, a 3-year-old girl, a 17-year-old boy, an 18-year-old woman, a 31-year-old woman and Turner — and killed 14-year-old Brashawnta Brooks.
Judge Michael McGinty heard from several people Monday who witnessed or responded to the crash, including the driver of a dump truck involved in the crash, two of the passengers involved in the accident, two bystanders who heard the crash and arrived to help the injured and several emergency responders.
The witnesses described the scene of the crash, which occurred at around 8 p.m., as “chaotic” during the first day of the trial in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court, where Turner faces maiming while driving under the influence, reckless involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence, manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, driving with improper brakes and two counts of child abuse.
Witnesses testified Turner was driving on John Tyler Highway (Route 5) to Charles City County with the six people in tow when he took a sharp turn to the right, swerved left and started spinning right, hitting the dump truck that was driving toward him and then crashing into a telephone pole near Chickahominy Riverfront Park a few hundred feet before the Benjamin Harrison Memorial Bridge.
Urine and blood samples taken from Turner a few hours after the crash indicated the presence of THC, the principal chemical in marijuana, and the presence of cocaine.
Turner, who was the only person wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, according to a James City County Police officer who interviewed him several hours after the accident, suffered a head injury and multiple contusions and abrasions to his forehead, left arm and left calf.
The front passenger, Turner’s then-31-year-old girlfriend, went through the front windshield and suffered a head injury.
A 19-year-old woman who was sitting behind the driver’s seat in the middle row of the van suffered multiple lacerations and a ripped spleen.
The 3-month-old who was sitting next to the 19-year-old woman in the middle row of the van suffered a serious head injury and a broken femur and had to be airlifted from Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News to Virginia Commonwealth University’s MCV pediatric care unit in Richmond.
Michael Nash, an employee with the Department of Motor Vehicles highway safety office who specializes in child car seats, said the car seat holding the 3-month-old girl was not properly installed on the seat, rendering it “completely ineffective” in securing the child.
“At some point during this crash, something hit [the three-month-old] in the face and the head,” said Dr. Jeff Stanley, who first admitted the child at the Newport News hospital.
The 17-year-old boy who was sitting next to the 3-year-old girl was found stuck underneath the van and suffering from a concussion and back pain.
Brooks, who was sitting on the other side of the 3-year-old, was found partially ejected out of the left rear passenger window. Joseph Brown, a local medical examiner, said the cause of death was a laceration to the back right side of Brooks’ head.
Police said the 3-year-old girl was not seriously injured.
Police found a silver smoking device on the floorboard of the front passenger seat and a plastic baggie on the driver’s side door compartment. Both were tested by a scientist at the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and came back positive for marijuana residue.
Dr. Connie Luckie, a forensic scientist with the department, testified she found .002 milligrams of THC in Turner’s urine. THC is generally known to cause inattentive behavior, an altered sense of time, space and distance, a slow reaction time and difficulty when performing difficult tasks, she said.
Stanley, who also treated Turner, said he found the presence of cocaine in Turner’s urine and described Turner as being confused, fatigued, intermittently staring into space, at times resistant to treatment and angry with “wildly swinging” moods.
“It seemed to me that more than a head injury was present,” Stanley said.
After the prosecution rested, McGinty heard from a car mechanic who said the minivan had over-inflated tires and would not have passed inspection.
He also heard from Brooks’ great uncle, who said he did not notice anything abnormal about Turner when he spoke to him earlier that day.
On Tuesday, Turner’s attorney Pat Kelley will present the rest of his evidence in the form of witness testimony, and McGinty will decide whether to find Turner guilty of the charges.
Turner was indicted May 9, 2012 and then disappeared for nearly two-and-a-half years before being arrested in Florida in October 2014.