LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - In the second day of Yariel Butler's trial, jurors heard from several witnesses and were shown a lot of new evidence. They saw dozens of pictures of the crime scene, saw body camera footage from when Butler was first pulled over and heard an audio interview that was Butler's first official statement to the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office.
As we've previously reported, Butler is accused of leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in the death of William "Eric" Peacock and Kimberly McDole. A third person at the scene, Robert Carley, who was the responding tow truck driver, sustained serious bruising. The crash happened on U.S. 52 in the early morning hours of August 1st, 2018. Carley testified in court on Monday.
On Tuesday afternoon, Detective Jon Eads testified before the court. He conducted Butler's interview after her arrest on August 2nd. The prosecuting attorneys played the audio of that approximately 45-minute-long interview. She told him that she was driving home from her 12-hour shift at NHK in Frankfort. She said she usually drives back to her home in Lafayette on U.S. 52.
She said on the morning of August 1st, it was foggy in Frankfort and that had she known it was also as foggy in Tippecanoe County, she would have taken a different way home. She said she reached down to adjust her phone cord without taking her eyes off the road. She was driving northbound. That's when she saw what appeared to be a truck or semi of some kind driving toward her in her lane of traffic. She said she swerved into the grass ditch to avoid hitting that car and that she did not see any people standing next to the car. She admitted hearing and feeling some kind of large thud on her car but that she didn't know what it was.
Her airbags did not deploy and she only noticed that her drivers-side rear view mirror was missing initially. When she looked in her rear view mirror, she said she didn't see the car she had passed, so she kept driving. She said she didn't stop because she didn't see the other car stop, and that she was scared to call the police. She estimated she was driving about 45 miles-per-hour on the 60 mile-per-hour highway.
The vehicle she thought she was side swiping was actually a stationary tow truck in the right hand lane of U.S. 52 that was helping tow Kimberly McDole and William "Eric" Peacock. Investigators did confirm to the court that McDole most likely missed the stop sign at the intersection with S.R. 28 because of the foggy conditions.
She said when she got to her home, she couldn't get out of her drivers-side door, so she climbed out the passenger side and went straight to bed. In the morning she fully examined her car and took the advice of her friend and called her insurance company to report the incident. She told Det. Eads she was planning on making a police report after the insurance representative asked if she had or not. However, before she could do so, she was pulled over by LPD Officer John Dale around 5:30 a.m. on August 2nd.
The court also played a body camera footage from Officer Dale. You can hear Butler openly admit to being in a car accident on U.S. 52. The defense is arguing that she freely admits this because she didn't know she had hit people. You can hear her say multiple times in the audio interview that she did not see any people and that she didn't know what she had hit.
TCSO also took her phone as evidence to review her calls and texts. She had made a phone call as she was in the parking lot of NHK and made another phone call when she got to her home in Lafayette. Det. Eads confirmed in testimony that she did not send any text messages on her drive home.
They also played Butler's phone conversation when she called Safe Auto. She said the situation was "scary and foggy" and that damage to her car included the side mirror, dents in the front and left side, a busted headlight and that she couldn't open the driver door.
On Tuesday morning, Captain Robert Hainje testified. He is the lead of the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office crash reconstruction team. He said based on evidence left at the crime scene, Butler's car did not side swipe the tow truck. He testified that the National Weather Service didn't officially declare the dense fog advisory until 6:45 a.m., which is several hours after the crash happened around 4:30 a.m.
There was much debate in court on Tuesday about a red mark that was found on the back right wheel well of the tow truck. Cpt. Hainje testified that he believed the mark came from Peacock's boots, which were a reddish color. A similar red mark was also found at the same height on the left wheel fender of Butler's Ford Expedition. One person the reconstruction team, Lieutenant Matthew Couch, theorized that there could have been contact between Butler's SUV and the tow truck that caused the transfer of that red mark.
However, the team did not officially document Lt. Couch's theory. Cpt. Hainje testified that the team had concluded it was physically impossible for there to have been contact between the two vehicles because there was no other conclusive damage to the tow truck that would indicated it had been hit. The defense is arguing it was possibly neglectful on the part of the team for not fulling documenting all the possibilities of the red mark in their police report. However, Cpt. Hainje also said that police reports are not meant to be the end-all be-all of what happened in a crash and that the reports are mainly used to refresh the officer's memories for testimony.
Another problem the reconstruction team faced was when first responders first got on scene, they moved the victim's clothing that had been knocked off their bodies and was strewn about into a pile. Cpt. Hainje said clothing placement is vital for determining where the victims were standing at the time of impact. So because the clothing was moved, the defense is saying it's not conclusive that the red mark was caused by the boots.
Dr. Darin Wolfe also testified on Tuesday. He is a forensic pathologist who performed Peacock's autopsy. He found scrapes and bruising on his body. Internally, he found rib fractures, multiple hemorrhages and a pelvic fracture on his front. He concluded that Peacock's cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries and his manner of death was determined an accident.
During her interview with Det. Eads, he asks her what she could say to the families of the victims if she could. She responded that she would apologize and that if she had seen people standing next to the car, she would have swerved a different way. Det. Eads also said she had started crying during the interview and you can hear him offering her a tissue.
Several of Butler's family members were in the courtroom today. They declined the chance to talk with News 18. Dan McDole, Kimberly McDole's son, told News 18 he's just trying to take all the information in and that he wasn't surprised while listening to Butler's interview. He observed that she seems to be sticking to a consistent story throughout and that it's nice to finally be learning more about what potentially happened that morning.
The defense and prosecuting attorneys agreed that they anticipate wrapping up the trial and going into jury deliberation on Wednesday.
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