Jury finds Yariel Butler guilty of leaving fatal crash scene

After three days of trial and just over an hour of deliberation, a jury found Yariel Butler guilty of leaving the scene of a deadly crash.

Posted: Feb 5, 2020 8:57 PM
Updated: Feb 7, 2020 4:33 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - After three days of trial and just over an hour of deliberation, a jury found Yariel Butler guilty of leaving the scene of a deadly crash. This crash happened around 4:30 a.m. on August 1st 2018 on U.S. 52, and killed two people - William "Eric" Peacock and Kimberly McDole. Tow truck driver Robery Carley was seriously injured, but survived.

As Butler stood with her attorneys and heard the verdict, she was stoic and took the news without outwardly showing emotion. She was found guilty of two counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, both are level 5 felonies, and one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in bodily injury, a class A misdemeanor. 

"This was a tragic accident for everyone involved, the victim's families in the case lost a loved one but this is also a tragedy for Ms. Butler as well," said one of her attorneys, Russell Brown. "She's facing the consequences of what we truly believe was an accident."

"It's just one of those cases where emotions get involved. It feels like people want to be able to hold someone accountable and in this case it was our client," said her other attorney, Lakeisha Murdaugh.

Wednesday started with two final witnesses from the prosecution. Dr. Richard Burg is a general surgeon at IU Health Arnett. He treated Kimberly McDole when she was first brought to the hospital. He said she had multiple system injuries to her body and was not awake or actively responsive to commands when she first arrived. Her cause of death was multi-system trauma and her manner of death was ruled an accident.

Detective Gregg Edwards was the 10th and final state witness. He is with the Indiana State Police surveillance team. He was able to show the jury the map of her travel based on her cell phone. He confirmed that she had a three-minute call at 4:17 a.m. on August 1st in Frankfort and had a second call at 4:42 a.m. in Lafayette. He also provided the cell phone data that she did call Safe Auto on August 2nd. 

Based on pings from her phone to cell phone towers, the data was consistent with her driving on U.S. 52 on the morning of August 1st. The data also showed that she did not send any text messages between the times of 4:20 and 4:42 a.m. He also concluded that she took a different route to work the next day, using I-65 instead. She told Detective Jon Eads in an audio interview that U.S. 52 is her normal route to and from work at NHK in Frankfort.

After the state rested its case, the defense called two witnesses. The first was Lieutenant Randy Martin. He testified that he was dispatched to the scene of the crash from the Tippecanoe County Jail, a trip he said would normally take about 15 minutes under normal weather conditions, but on the morning of August 1st, it took him 20 to 25 minutes because of the dense fog that morning.

He said he had an ambulance with its emergency lights on following him to the scene and reported that at times, he couldn't see the ambulance in his rear view mirror because of the fog. He was later called to a single motorcycle crash about three miles north of where the crash Butler was involved in happened. It was determined that this motorcycle crash also happened due to fog, making it the third crash that morning. Deputy Robert Loop testified next and confirmed that McDole had originally crashed her car due to foggy conditions.

While Dep. Loop was on the stand, he also agreed it was very foggy that morning. However, under state questioning, he said he was able to find the crash site, could see road signs and lights and could see in front of his car. Under ensuing defense questioning, he said his familiarity with U.S. 52 most likely helped him navigate the roads that night and had received special training about how to drive police cars. During the defense's closing arguments, Murdaugh argued that the officers were able to find the crash because they knew what they were looking for, and her client was not expecting to come upon a stationary car or people on her drive home that morning.

News 18 had previously reported that police suspected Butler to be under the influence of marijuana at the time of her arrest on August 2nd. Lafayette Police bulletins sent to News 18 on August 2nd indicate that Butler was arrested near 2640 Duncan Road on a charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

When an updated charges and probable cause affidavit was sent to News 18 on August 27th after McDole had passed, there was no charge of operating while intoxicated included. It was not mentioned in the court document that she had been under the influence of marijuana at the time of her arrest, which was carried out by Officer John Dale. This matter was not brought up by either the prosecution or the defense during the trial. It is unclear at this time why this charge was not followed through on.

In the courtroom on Wednesday, the state made its closing arguments first. The state only had to prove that Butler should have reasonably anticipated the accident that resulted in the injury to a person and that she left the scene of a crash. They said there was enough damage to the car that she should have known to stop. They argue Butler clearly sped away because the tire tracks indicate revving and acceleration. There was also body tissue and extensive damage to the driver side door, so much so to the point where Butler couldn't open the door. 

As we previously reported, the defense was arguing that Butler thought she had been sideswiped in her lane of traffic by another vehicle, and hadn't seen any people standing on the road. When the defense made its closing arguments, they argued the damage was not enough. They said the airbags did not deploy and there was no windshield or major hood damage to the Ford Expedition. They argued that Butler did not see the lights in her rear view mirror because of the fog and the tinted back windows on her car, indicating to her that the car that had side swiped her hadn't stopped either.

They argued that she did not try to wash or hide her car and that she freely admitted she had been in a crash to Officer Dale on the morning of her arrest. They said because she lived on her own, payed her own bills and had no criminal history, she did not fit the typical stereotype of youth of being irresponsible. 

However, it wasn't enough for the jury. They all came to the conclusion that Butler was guilty of her charges. Murdaugh asked each of the jurors individually if this was their decision, to which all replied yes. The state moved to revoke Butler's bond. Judge Steve Meyer granted this and she was taken into custody at the Tippecanoe County Jail. 

News 18 talked with the family members on both sides of this case off camera. Family of Peacock and McDole who had been present for the trial both said they felt the jury had done it's job and felt that justice had been served. We also spoke with Butler's mother, who was also in the courtroom for the whole trial. She said her heart goes out to the victim's families and that she wished none of this would have happened to anyone involved.

Butler's sentencing is set for March 5th and 10:30 a.m. She is facing up to 13 years in prison. Murdaugh and Brown said they will shift their focus to this event. Brown explained that this is a fully suspendible sentence, meaning she could be placed on probation or could be placed in community corrections.

Day one of trial coverage.

Day two of trial coverage.

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