News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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October 25, 2013

Jury in fatal crash trial hears driver talk about drinking

TERRE HAUTE — A 12-member jury Thursday heard a tape recording of Travis A. Ley in which the defendant told a Terre Haute police detective he had consumed a pitcher of beer just prior to a May 22, 2012, accident.

Ley, 36, of Terre Haute, faces four felony charges as a result of the accident when a vehicle he drove collided with two motorcycles at 17th and Hulman Streets. Motorcycle rider Leylahnd Owens, 22, of Terre Haute died in the crash. Jacob T. Quinn of Terre Haute was injured.

Police Detective Julia Deardorf testified in Vigo County Superior Court Division 5 that she read Miranda rights to Ley in the hospital and had Ley sign a waiver of those rights. A copy of that Miranda was given to the jury. In the recording, made in the hospital room along with Terre Haute Police Officer Jonathan Sweatt, Ley said he was the driver of a white Toyota involved in the accident.

Ley said he went to Charlie’s, a tavern/restaurant in the 1600 block of Crawford Street, about 9:30 p.m. There he had one pitcher of light beer. Ley also stated, “I had two or three 16 ounce [drinks] prior, throughout the day,” he told Deardorf.

The detective asked how long before, with Ley responding since about 4:30 p.m.

Ley, in the recording, said he left Charlie’s and pulled onto Crawford Street, then onto 17th Street headed toward Hulman Street.

“I remember an impact on the driver’s side,” Ley said.

Ley said he had a stop sign at the intersection. He said he did not hear any motorcycles and did not see any vehicle lights.

“As soon as I started to go, there was an impact,” he said on the front of the vehicle. A second impact was made immediately after. “It was bang, bang,” Ley said in the recording, “not even a half second.”

Ley said he got out of the car and saw rubble.

He said he remembers others, neighbors of the area, gathering around.

“I was trying to tell them I did not see any lights or nothing,” he said. “My mom’s car is gone. What the hell just happened,” he said.

The short interview ended at 12:25 p.m. on May 23, 2012. The accident happened about 10:30 p.m. on May 22, 2012.

Deardorf said he obtained a pitcher from the business and determined it could hold 42.25 ounces of liquid

Deardorf said about 10 civilians were present when she arrived. All emergency vehicles had left the scene. The detective said she asked people at the scene if they witnessed the accident or knew of anyone involved. None of the people there had witnessed or knew anyone.

The detective said she did not request a field sobriety test as she knew police had requested blood tests at the hospital.

Deardorf also testified she did not request a DNA or fingerprints of aluminum beer bottles found in Ley’s vehicle. The detective said even if she had requested such tests “it would not change my investigation. It would not change that [Ley] had consumed alcohol. I don’t have to prove possession of a container. I just have to prove he had alcohol in his system,” Deardorf said.

On cross examination, Deardorf stated that an autopsy report showed Owens had a blood alcohol content of .052 and had tested positive for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) or marijuana.

Defense attorney Terek Mercho asked Deardorf if she checked into the background of the motorcyclists. Deardorf said no. Mercho said Quinn had no motorcycle drivers license or permit. Rob Roberts, chief deputy prosecutor, showed that Owens had a valid learners permit for a motorcycle.

Earlier in the trail, Byran Zindren, a staff nurse at Terre Haute Regional Hospital, said he obtained a urine test from Ley as well as placing Ley in a secured room at the hospital. Zindren said that he decided to place Ley in the room as he does with any patient that a police officer brings into the emergency room. Zindren said Ley was very cooperative.

Zindren said the blood sample was taken at 11:40 p.m. and sent to the hospital lab. Zindren said a “rainbow” test was taken on Ley so that any test requested could be done by the lab.

Nicole Knauer, a lab technician at Terre Haute Regional Hospital, said the lab received the blood at 11:52 p.m. Blood for a police lab test was given in a secured medical test kit to a police officer at 1:03 a.m.

Knauer said the hospital test result was 0.169 for a blood serum.

Sheila Arnold, analytical lab supervisor for the Indiana Department of Toxicology, Wednesday testified that a 0.169 blood serum test result converted to whole blood test is in the range of 0.134 to 0.162 blood alcohol content. Arnold testified the last digit is not used in the final result, as it is not rounded up or down.

Dawn Golden, forensic scientist for the Indiana Department of Toxicology, conducted the test on Ley’s blood sample provided by police. Golden testified Thursday the state lab result was 0.13 blood alcohol. The state test is equated at a whole blood count.

O’Brien, mother of Ley, testified the white vehicle was a Toyota Camry and that the vehicle belonged to her, adding her son was driving the vehicle on May 22. She had last seen her son between 8 and 9 p.m. on May 22, 2012 and last spoke to him about 10 p.m. that night.

The prosecution rested its case. The defense called one witness, Terre Haute Police Officer Theodore Lemke, who testified he had taken one course at the time of the accident in training to be an accident reconstructionist.

Lemke said he measured that Owens body was found 28 feet, 2 inches south and 79 feet west of the intersection of 17th and Hulman Streets. It was the farthest away from the intersection. Lemke said the body was 240 pounds and 77 inches in length. However, Lemke said he could not determine where the body first struck the pavement, and therefore could not make a determination of speed.

Also, Lemke said no headlights on the motorcycles were found. Lemke said if found, a filament in the headlights would show if the headlights were on or off at the time of the accident. The jury is to hear closing arguments today and then rule on the case.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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