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Crash reconstructionist describes how fatal accident likely unfolded (IN)


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LAFAYETTE — Skid marks a few yards from the back of Robert Carley's tow truck hinted at the first time then 18-year-old Yariel Butler noticed the stopped wrecker in her path, according to testimony Tuesday morning.


Butler, now 20 years old, is charged with two counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury.


She admitted to police she was the driver who struck Kimberly Massey McDole, William Eric Peacock and tow truck driver Robert Carley about 4:30 a.m. Aug. 1, 2018, according to opening statements on Monday.


Butler's statements to police after her arrest on Aug. 3, 2018, are scheduled to be played for the jurors on Tuesday afternoon.


On Tuesday morning, Tippecanoe County sheriff's Capt. Rob Hainje testified for two hours, reconstructing the accident for jurors in Butler's trial in Tippecanoe Superior 2.


Under ideal conditions, it takes the typical driver 1.6 seconds to react after a hazard is perceived, Hainje testified. Weather conditions, such as fog, can make that response even longer.


On that foggy August morning, Butler got off work at NHK in Frankfort at 4:11 a.m. and headed towards her Lafayette home via U.S. 52.


As she approached the north junction with Indiana 28, Butler apparently didn't noticed the stopped tow truck facing north in the right northbound lane until she was about 120 feet from the back of it, Hainje testified, estimating the reaction time from the first skid marks.


That's if she was going 60 mph — the posted speed limit — Hainje said. Butler likely would have been between 90 and 100 feet from the back of the truck before slamming on the brakes if she was driving at a slower speed, Hainje testified.


Earlier in the morning on Aug. 1, 2018, McDole was eastbound on Indiana 28 and missed the stop sign because of the fog. She drove through the intersection and into the cornfield on the east side of U.S. 52.


She got a ride home, called a wrecker and asked Peacock to drive her back to the intersection to get her car, according to police investigations. 


The tow truck had just finished pulling McDole's car out of the cornfield, Carley testified Monday.


Carley drove McDole's wrecked car to a gravel yard on the northwest corner of the intersection, then walked back to the tow truck to finish up the paperwork, he said.


He, McDole and Peacock were standing on the passenger side of the truck in the back when they were struck, Carley testified.


Hainje testified about how Butler's black and gold Ford Expedition missed the tow truck.


But the SUV hit McDole, Peacock and Carley, prosecutors said.


Hainje said the damage to Butler's Ford Expedition was to the front of the SUV on the driver's side, including its headlight, as well as to the driver's side mirror, which broke off and was found at the scene.


Tracks in the weeds and skid marks on the pavement indicate Butler drove off the road, struck McDole, Peacock and Carley, who were on the passenger side of the car, Hainje testified.


Peacock was thrown a few yards in front of the truck tow truck, and McDole was knocked even further, Hainje testified as he pointed out where the two had been found based on the medical supplies littering the road.


Butler continued northbound in the ditch, and it appeared she accelerated, churning up weeds and mud as she steered back onto the road about 150 feet north of the accident site, according to Hainje's testimony.


One of Butler's attorneys, Lakeisha Chantay Murdaugh, said in opening statements that Butler didn't stop after the accident because she believed she'd been sideswiped by a southbound car driving in the northbound lanes.


Russell Brown, Butler's other attorney, showed Hainje a photo of the tow truck taken at the scene before the sun rose.


In the foggy haze, the truck's two white working lights in the rear bumper looked like headlights of an oncoming car, Hainje confirmed when Brown asked.


In her opening statement, Murdaugh said that when Butler drove out of the ditch, she looked in her rearview mirror and didn't see any vehicles, so she continued to drive home.


But Carley testified Monday that his tow truck's yellow flashing lights, as well as his truck's yellow and white wig-wag lights were all operating when they were struck, and photos taken about an hour after the crash showed headlights and police lights were visible at a distance.


The sheriff's detective who interviewed Butler after her arrest is scheduled to testify Tuesday afternoon.

This story will be updated after his testimony.



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