Attorney: Driver was drunk after fatal crash, not before
May 22, 2013
Kendall Ware was not too intoxicated to drive when he allegedly caused a head-on crash in 2011 that killed a 17-year-old Audubon boy, Ware's attorney argued in district court on Tuesday on the first day of the man's vehicular homicide trial.
A blood test revealed that Ware, 57, of Lineville, had a blood-alcohol concentration of .205 percent - which is more than twice the legal limit to drive in Iowa - on the night of the Oct. 19, 2011 crash, when his southbound pickup truck allegedly went too wide around a bend in U.S. Highway 71 just north of Brayton and collided with a sport utility vehicle about 11:25 p.m.
But Ware was not drunk before the crash, his attorney Joey Hoover, of Winterset, alleges. Rather, Ware consumed a vodka mix from Gatorade bottles in the truck after the crash, Hoover said in his opening remarks.
Hoover said Ware's passenger, Mark Piearson, 32, of Leon, would testify that he saw Ware drink the vodka before law-enforcement and emergency personnel arrived.
But a sheriff's deputy and an emergency medical responder who were among the first to arrive at the crash scene testified this morning that neither saw Ware drinking alcohol nor any beverage containers that might have contained the alcohol.
The crash killed Kristopher George Crawley, who was a passenger in the sport utility vehicle.
The driver of Crawley's vehicle, Jason Rattenborg, 24, of Audubon, suffered a collapsed lung and other injuries, court records show. Ware and Piearson suffered unspecified injuries. Ware entered and left the courtroom with a pronounced limp. Deputy Brian Juelsgaard testified today that the crash pinned Ware in the truck, and that Ware said at the time that he couldn't move his legs.
"The vehicles, for lack of a better term, were fused together, nose-to-nose," Juelsgaard said of the crash.
Ware is charged with vehicular homicide and serious injury by vehicle, which are felonies punishable by up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted.
In opening statements, Audubon County Attorney Francine Andersen said Crawley and Rattenborg went on a late-night run to McDonald's in Atlantic and were the last car to make it into the drive-thru before the fast-food restaurant closed.
"They thought they were lucky," Andersen said.
Meanwhile, Ware headed out that evening in an attempt to connect with a woman he previously met at a bar south of Atlantic, law-enforcement officials said.
Hoover said Rattenborg may be partially responsible for the crash because Rattenborg was tired after a 16-hour work shift and allegedly admitted that he drank part of a beer about an hour before the crash. Hoover said both vehicles had crossed the center line at the time of the accident, and he alleged the Iowa State Patrol had failed to obtain blood-alcohol tests from Rattenborg.
Medical records showed Rattenborg with no alcohol in his system shortly after the accident, law-enforcement officials said. A physician's assistant who worked on Rattenborg reported no smell of alcohol, officials added.
But Dennis Ballou, an emergency medical technician who responded to the crash, testified this morning that he could smell alcohol on Ware's breath from 3 feet away and that Ware's eyes were red, which indicated Ware was intoxicated.
"We were talking to him. We could smell the alcohol," Ballou said.
Crawley, called George by friends and family, was enrolled in welding school and owned two raccoon hunting dogs, one of which Crawley won an award for its training. Andersen said Crawley had been working on an invention - a raccoon-skin remover.
The boy's father, James Crawley - also known as Jim or "Cricket" - was one of the first witnesses on the stand for the prosecution. The weathered, older man nearly broke down in tears as he talked about his last conversation with his son.
Several pieces of evidence were admitted into court during the first day of trial, among them the 911 calls made by Ware's passenger. In the call, a panicked voice tells police that a head-on collision had occurred near Hamlin - not Brayton, where the event actually took place.
A passing semi driver for Farner-Bocken, Clyde Weitl of Templeton, reported the actual location from Brayton.
Robert Monserrate, a supervisor at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation crime lab, said that a blood-alcohol concentration of .205 for someone of Ware's weight - which law-enforcement officials put at about 170 pounds - would result from having the equivalent 10 to 12 drinks in their system at the time the blood sample was taken.
Blood tests often take weeks to complete, and Ware apparently left Iowa before he could be arrested for the crimes. The initial felony charges were filed in June 2012, about eight months after the crash.
U.S. Marshals Service officers arrested Ware in Minot, N.D., a city of about 42,000 in the northern part of the state.
A lawsuit filed by Rattenborg and Crawley's parents against Ware and his employer, Handlos Harvesting, claims that Ware was working at the time of the crash, and that Handlos Harvesting allows its employees to drink alcohol while at work. Handlos Harvesting denied the allegations in court records.
Witnesses are expected to testify in Ware's vehicular homicide trial today and Thursday, after which a jury will decide its verdict.
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