Arguments begin for fatal hit-and-run crash, tow truck driver testifies

Yariel Butler's trial started on Monday. Robert Carley was the tow truck driver involved in the crash. As the only eyewitness to the crash, he took the witness stand in the first day of testimony.

Posted: Feb 3, 2020 7:18 PM
Updated: Feb 4, 2020 6:29 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Twelve jurors are now hearing the arguments in a fatal hit-and-run case. Yariel Butler is facing three charges: two counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, and one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in bodily injury.

It happened early in the morning of August 1st, 2018. Court documents say that Kimberly McDole was driving on State Road 28 when she drove through the intersection with U.S. 52 and crashed into a cornfield. Documents say that McDole left the scene and came back with her friend, William "Eric" Peacock, for help.

They called for a tow truck and Robert Carley arrived to help. Carley testified on Monday in court. He said he did a single-lane recovery since there is no sizable shoulder on U.S. 52 and since there are multiple lanes on the road. This means his truck was parked at an angle in the right-hand lane to help protect him while he worked. He said this is a standard practice that he had been trained to do. He also confirmed that he had multiple lights flashing on his tow truck and that he was wearing reflective gear.

He said he pulled McDole's car across U.S. 52 to safety and walked back so they could do paperwork. He told the court the last thing he remembered was walking around the back of his truck with McDole and Peacock nearby. That's when he originally told police that a vehicle swerved to the right of the truck, striking all three people. 

The prosecuting attorneys played Carley's 911 call. You can hear him saying that the other two people with him are not moving and that the vehicle left the scene.

Lakeisha Murdaugh and Russell Brown are representing Butler. Murdaugh gave the opening statement for the defense. She said she is concerned about blame and teenage stereotypes as potential biases in this case, seeing as Butler was 18-years-old at the time of the crash.

She said Butler was on her way home from working the 12-hour night shift at NHK in Frankfort. The HR manager for NHK testified on Monday and confirmed that Butler clocked out of her shift at 4:11 a.m. on August 1st and video surveillance video shows her driving off the NHK property around 4:13 a.m. Court documents say police responded to Carley's 911 call and arrived on scene of the crash around 4:30 a.m.

Murdaugh also emphasized that there was a dense fog advisory that morning and that having the tow truck parked in the lane of traffic was dangerous to begin with. She is arguing that Butler thought she had been sideswiped in her lane of traffic, and that's why she didn't stop. She said Butler did not see any lights or people before the crash or afterward in her rearview mirror. 

Peacock was pronounced dead at the scene. McDole died on August 27th due to her injuries. Carley only suffered some serious bruising to his legs.

Murdaugh said Butler then went home, looked at her car and spoke with someone who advised her to call her insurance. The insurance people then asked if she had filed a police report, which she hadn't. This is where Murdaugh is arguing the youth stereotype, saying that many young drivers don't know the proper protocol for a car accident and that Butler didn't know she had to stop and file a police report even though it's the law to do so. 

She said once her client realized what she had to do, she did file a claim with her insurance and went back to another 12-hour shift at NHK the following day. When Officer John Dale pulled Butler over on August 2nd, she admitted to being in an accident and voluntarily disclosed the location. 

Prosecutors said in their opening statements that Butler should have reasonably anticipated the accident considering the weather conditions. Carley testified that it was clear but dark when he first arrived to help McDole and Peacock, and was unsure when the fog started. He also said he remembered other cars passing them safely in the other northbound lane.

Pictures taken by police for evidence show the fog while it was still dark outside and that the tow truck lights were on. Carley also admitted that he did not use any other type of safety signals at his disposal, such as reflective triangles for the road or the use of a road flare.

The trial is expected to go until Thursday at the latest. News 18 will continue to be in the courtroom bringing you the latest updates from this trial on-air and online.

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