Murder trial begins — (The Andalusia Star News)

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The Andalusia Star News  

Published 12:07am

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Attorneys for the state presented three witnesses who testified that they saw David Wiltshire driving erratically before a wreck that claimed the lives of two women in 2007, as well as medical evidence that he tested positive for three drugs on the day of the accident.

Wiltshire is charged with murder in the 2007 deaths of Christy Wright Still, 34, of Evergreen, and Deanna VanGieson of Theodore. VanGieson was an orthopedic nurse who worked in Andalusia. Still was a passenger in Wiltshire’s vehicle and died at the scene. VanGieson died two days later at Andalusia Regional Hospital.

The wreck occurred on March 1, 2007, the same day that tornadoes devastated Enterprise, claiming the lives of five students and injuring 50 others.

Willis Polk and John Colquett, who both were employed by Advanced EMS at the time, each testified that the pair witnessed Wiltshire driving erratically. Polk and Colquett were returning from Evergreen, in the ambulance, and were behind the red pick-up driven by Wiltshire on Hwy. 84.

Colquett said he saw Wiltshire’s vehicle run two vehicles “completely off the road.” Polk testified that he slowed down to put distance between Wiltshire and the ambulance, while Colquett attempted to contact the 911 command center to get law enforcement to stop the vehicle.

Polk said the hood of Wiltshire’s vehicle “flew up” and he pulled off the side of the road.

“I pulled in front of him and turned on the lights,” Polk said. He testified that the way Wiltshire was driving “I thought he was drunk.”

Both men said Wiltshire said he was going to take the hood off of his truck, and that they thought that would give law enforcement enough time to reach Wiltshire and determine if he was impaired. Later, both men were called to the scene of the fatal wreck.

Chester Fox testified that he was traveling west on Hwy. 84 when Wiltshire’s vehicle “left the left lane, crossed the middle lane, and came across our lane. I just was able to get by.”

Visibly shaken by the memory, Fox struggled to control his voice, and said he remembered seeing Wiltshire’s face.

“It was like he was looking but not seeing,” he said.

Moments later, he said, he saw a “horrible crash” in his rearview mirror. Fox immediately turned around, parked in a nearby driveway, and went over to the car that had been hit, VanGieson’s.

Asked why he chose to go to VanGieson’s car instead of Wiltshire’s truck, Fox choked back tears and said, “Because in my mind, that was the innocent one.”

Todd Grimes, a retired state trooper, was a member of the homicide team that investigated the accident. He said that he used an in-line momentum formula calculation to estimate that VanGieson’s Ford Explorer was traveling 45 miles per hour and that Wiltshire’s truck was traveling at about 73 miles per hour.

Grimes said that when he and Trooper Chad Blankenship interviewed Wiltshire, Wiltshire said that on the day of the wreck, he had taken two hydrocodone (pain) pills, two pills for seizures, and that he normally took Lexapro, a depression medication, but that he wasn’t sure if he took one the day of the crash. He also told the investigators that he had no recollection of the crash, and only remembered waking up in a Pensacola hospital. He also told the investigators he had not used alcohol that day, and that he hadn’t used narcotics in years.

But Grimes said a drug test administered at Andalusia Regional Hospital showed different results. Test results shown to the jury showed that Wiltshire tested positive for THC (marijuana), opiates, and benzodiazapene (used to treat anxiety or seizures).

On cross examination, Wiltshire’s attorney, Joe Sawyer, established that his client could have tested positive for marijuana even if it had been days since he had used it.

Troopers testified that Wiltshire’s Florida driver’s license was suspended at the time of the accident.

Ben Baxley and Kelly Hawkins of the attorney general’s violent crimes division are prosecuting for the state at the request of Covington County DA Walt Merrell, who previously represented Wiltshire.

The case will resume in Judge Lex Short’s courtroom at 9 a.m. today, Tues., Nov. 15.