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Trial begins for woman charged in fatal 2011 wreck

Posted: August 13, 2013 - 4:58pm
Kristine Marie Heath, 37, turns to watch as a witness is called to the stand during her trial for vehicular homicide resulting from a collision at Ridge Road and Washington Road on June 17, 2011 in which Morgan Renew, 18, was killed.  Photo By Jim Blaylock
Photo By Jim Blaylock
Kristine Marie Heath, 37, turns to watch as a witness is called to the stand during her trial for vehicular homicide resulting from a collision at Ridge Road and Washington Road on June 17, 2011 in which Morgan Renew, 18, was killed.

Twitter @ValerieRowell

The trial of an Augusta woman charged in a 2011 fatal wreck began Tuesday in Columbia County.

Kristine Marie Heath, 37, of Dartmouth Court, was charged with vehicular homicide, six counts of serious injury by vehicle, open container and failing to stop at a stop sign.

The jury was chosen Monday and opening statements and testimony began Tuesday morning at the courthouse in Evans.

The collision occurred at about 9 p.m. on June 17, 2011, when the Ford Explorer Heath was driving ran a stop sign at the intersection with Washington Road and was hit by a Jeep Cherokee driven by Angel Herrin, of Augusta.

Morgan Renew, 18, of Barnwell, S.C., was a backseat passenger and was partially ejected from a window. She died from her injuries.

"When the vehicle rolled over, it rolled on top of her," Assistant District Attorney Hank Syms said during opening statements.

Heath admitted to deputies that she'd drank less than two beers. Her attorney, Pete Theodocion, argued that Heath wasn't impaired and that the wreck was caused by her not stopping at the stop sign.

Theodocion said the jury should consider second degree vehicular homicide because Renew's death occurred as the result of heath running the stop sign, not driving under the influence.

"Kristine was chosen (to drive) because she wasn't under the influence of alcohol," Theodocion said. "That stop sign kind of jumps out at you. ... Everyone does it. It happens to every driver. You make mistakes on the road."

Heath refused field blood alcohol tests and blood tests later at the hospital.

When Heath's Explorer ran the stop sign, it was hit by a Jeep Cherokee driven by Angel Herrin. Her husband and four children also were in the vehicle. Herrin, her husband and then 8-year-old daughter were seriously injured.

"All I could do was scream for my children to hold on and I slammed on brakes," Herrin testified Tuesday. "As fast as she was going, there was no way she was going to stop."

Some of Heath's other five passengers also were injured.

Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday morning followed by Closing arguments and jury deliberation.

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