The South Strabane man accused of being drunk when he crashed into a tree while driving down a back road in Greene County last summer, killing one of his passengers and injuring two others, was ordered to stand trial on all charges following his preliminary hearing Friday.
Corey Tyler Wilson appeared sullen while staring down at the courtroom table in front of him as he listened to testimony recounting the early morning crash on June 19 in Cumberland Township that killed his friend, 21-year-old Jennah Whipkey of Carmichaels.
Lori Mummert testified that she was the first to come upon the wreck in the 200 block of Rutters Lane shortly after 3 a.m. and called 911 before checking on the people injured in the crash and comforting Wilson.
“I was trying to keep him calm. I asked him if he was OK,” Mummert said of Wilson, who was bleeding from his mouth and appeared to have a concussion.
“No, I’m not OK,” Mummert recalled hearing Wilson say to her. “I just hurt my friends.”
Moments later, Cumberland Township police Office Hunter Davis arrived and began checking on the passengers in the rear of the vehicle. He said one man, who was later identified as Rece Hennerman, was unconscious while Whipkey did not have a pulse. Neither had been wearing a seat belt, and they were thrown around in the backseat when the vehicle left the road and slammed into two trees.
“She was showing no signs of life, prior to removing her (from the car),” Davis testified.
Davis said he then spoke to Wilson, who appeared dazed from the crash, but also smelled of alcohol as the police officer walked him to a waiting ambulance.
“He had a blank state (of mind),” Davis said of Wilson’s demeanor. “He wasn’t processing what was happening.”
But just before Wilson got into the ambulance, he asked about Whipkey’s condition, Davis testified.
“Is Jennah OK?” Davis recalled Wilson asking him.
“I tried to dodge that question and proceed to the ambulance,” Davis said.
Whipkey was taken to an ambulance, but pronounced dead at the scene from blunt force trauma to her head and neck, according to Deputy Coroner Martin Yoskovich.
Wilson and Hennerman were taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., for treatment, while a fourth passenger, Matthew Nemec, was wearing a seat belt and not seriously injured. A test specimen from Wilson showed he had a blood-alcohol level of .179% a couple of hours after the crash, Davis said. He added that investigators determined the group had been drinking at the Jessop Boat Club before the crash and alcohol had been found inside the vehicle.
State police Cpl. Todd Stephenson, a crash reconstructionist who investigated the crash, testified that Wilson’s vehicle never showed signs of braking when it left the roadway while traveling at about 45 miles per hour before striking a small tree and then a larger one a few feet away. He said the vehicle sustained “significant damage” to the front end from the impacts.
Wilson, 28, appeared to use tissues to dab his face while listening to details of the crash and the discovery that Whipkey had died. His defense attorney, Jeremy Davis, argued that the homicide by vehicle while DUI charge should be dismissed because prosecutors offered no evidence about the correlation between Wilson’s ability to drive and the circumstances of the crash. He also pointed to the fact the crash happened at a “bad curve” on a poorly lit road.
“This is an accident, a horrible accident, and I’m not downplaying that at all,” Davis said, while noting Whipkey had been killed. “We’re here for a criminal matter and the intoxication has to have been shown to have caused the accident. ... This accident could’ve happened anywhere.”
Greene County First Assistant District Attorney Roy Cross, who is handling prosecution of the case, said those factors are more relevant for a trial and pointed to the evidence that Wilson “drove straight off the road” while having a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit to drive a motor vehicle.
After listening to testimony in the Greene County Courthouse for nearly two hours, District Judge Lee Watson ordered Wilson to stand trial on all charges. Wilson, who is free on $50,000 bond while awaiting trial, was charged by Cumberland Township police in October with homicide by vehicle while DUI, homicide by vehicle, aggravated assault by vehicle, aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, driving under the influence, reckless endangerment and numerous summary offenses.
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