Archive for Thursday, May 24, 2007

Trial ordered in fatal accident

Suspect’s blood-alcohol content measured well above legal limits, police say

May 24, 2007

A Leavenworth woman has been bound over for trial on involuntary manslaughter in the April 21 traffic accident that killed a Lansing woman.

At a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Leavenworth County District Judge Frederick Stewart found enough evidence existed for Julie Heise, 44, of Leavenworth, to be tried on the charge.

Two witnesses and a traffic officer testified in the preliminary hearing.

Leavenworth Police Lt. Michael Adams was the first officer on the scene on Shrine Park Road. He said he tried to help Lee Ann Orndorff, 41, of Lansing, out of her gray Dodge Caravan, but she was unresponsive. Adams said he then assisted a firefighter remove Heise from her vehicle out the driver side window. Soon after, he said he was informed that Orndorff was pronounced dead and an investigation began.

A subpoena was filed for the medical records of Heise at Cushing Memorial Hospital, where she was taken for minor injuries after the accident. The hospital recorded a blood-alcohol content of .179 - well over the .08 limit allowed in Kansas. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation test received two days ago recorded Heise's blood-alcohol level at .15. Adams said authorities are rerunning a toxin screen.

Adams said in Heise's vehicle, he found two prescriptions that were filled two days prior to the accident, Diazepam and Morphine, prescribed on an extended release. Heise denied taking them at the time of the accident, Adams said.

Heise's defense attorney, Gary Fuller, said his client claimed she was reaching for a chocolate sundae, which caused her to swerve into the other lane. Adams testified there was chocolate ice cream splattered in her van.

The first witness, Lee Ann Fitzgerald, said she was driving northbound on Shrine Park Road behind Heise's white Ford Expedition at the time of the accident, approximately 9:30 p.m. She said she slowed down after seeing Heise's vehicle swerve into the opposite lane then back momentarily before driving back into the wrong lane where she said it stayed for a few blocks before colliding into Orndorff's van.

Fitzgerald pulled over and called the police.

Robert Hodges was also called to the stand. His vehicle was struck by Heise at Shrine Park Road and McDonald Road.

"I was going up the road and I see an SUV come into my lane, and I thought the car would move back. I thought it was kids playing around or someone having a heart attack," he said. "There was nothing in the road."

When Heise's vehicle didn't move, Hodges moved onto the shoulder near The Oaks golf course to avoid being hit. The back of his vehicle on the driver's side was struck, which turned his vehicle halfway around.

"I turned my car and started driving to get the license plate number, and I saw it hit the other car," he said.

The other car was Orndorff's van.

Leavenworth County Attorney Frank Kohl said Heise had at least one prior DUI, which could equate to a level 4 misdemeanor and 42 to 48 months in jail.

Kohl said Heise had been released from jail on a $20,000 bond.

An arraignment was scheduled for June 6.

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