Trial begins for Louisville woman Margaret Laverne Riddle, charged in 2007 vehicular homicide
By J.J. Kindred | (email@example.com)
A trial began in Blount County Circuit Court Tuesday for a 46-year-old Louisville woman charged with vehicular homicide stemming from a fatal accident more than six years ago.
Margaret Laverne Riddle, Kenway Drive, was formally arrested on a capias warrant on May 7, 2008. She was free the same day on $50,000 bond.
According to an Alcoa Police Department report, on June 14, 2007, Riddle was traveling on Hall Road near the intersection of Associates Boulevard when she rear-ended a motorcycle driven by John E. Younce Jr., of Maryville. Younce, 46, who was stopped at a traffic light, was thrown from his motorcycle and landed on his head, breaking his neck.
Younce was wearing a helmet, but his injuries were so severe that he died a short time later at Blount Memorial Hospital.
Riddle reportedly told officers that she was approaching the traffic signal at the intersection when it changed from red to green, and she continued through because she didn’t see Younce stopped at the intersection.
According to the original report, officers indicated that drugs and/or alcohol may have played a role in the accident.
In a separate Alcoa police report, officers reported a “suspected crack rock” was retrieved from a purse in Riddle’s vehicle while she was at the hospital having blood drawn, which is standard procedure after a fatal accident. Riddle was arrested and charged at the time in connection with the discovery of the suspected illicit substance.
Blount County Assistant District Attorney Ryan Desmond gave his opening statement to the jury, going over the events leading up to the accident.
“On June 14, 2007, John Younce lost his life,” Desmond said. “He owned a transmission shop in Knoxville. He called his wife and told her he was heading home. He was sitting there at an intersection, and (Riddle) slams into the back of Younce, being hit with such force that his neck was snapped in two.
“Riddle’s blood alcohol level was at 0.15, double the legal limit,” Desmond continued. “This trial is about a terrible choice and a terrible consequence. It’s about holding someone accountable.”
During his opening statement, Riddle’s attorney, Rob White, called the accident a “horrible tragedy.
“The officer did not smell alcohol on Ms. Riddle that evening,” White continued. “These are not the actions of someone who had a blood alcohol content of 0.15. She was not placed under arrest that evening, and this stirs of a lady involved in a horrible accident, and has been cooperative with everyone involved.”
Suzanne James, Younce’s widow, was the first witness to testify. She said she and Younce were married for 25 years, and he was the owner of Advance Transmission on Western Avenue in Knoxville.
James said Younce had purchased his motorcycle, which had designs of an American flag, in early 2007. She said Younce, who was also known as Gene, called her at 8:30 p.m. the evening of the accident to let her know he was on his way home.
“It was unusual for him to call on his way home. He usually didn’t check in,” James said. “An officer and a chaplain came to the door and told me he had passed.
“I was more worried about his mom and dad. I called and told them,” she added, fighting back tears.
Denton Bowers and Robert Kunkel, both employees of Remco, a motor repair shop on North Hall Road, testified that they were working that evening and were on their break in a grassy area near the intersection of Hall and Associates Boulevard.
“I was just taking a break, waiting for my co-worker to come out,” Bowers said. “I was watching traffic. I didn’t hear the sound, but when you don’t see an accident every day of your life, it stalls you.
“That car hit that motorcycle,” Bowers said. “After the crash, I called 911. I walked through the grass and to a fence, and I was watching the emergency workers giving CPR and everything.”
During cross-examination, Bowers told White that he “saw a blond-headed girl, but I wasn’t sure if it was (Riddle).”
Driving 55 mph
Sgt. Bud Cooper, a patrol officer with the Alcoa Police Department, testified that he was called that evening while off duty to reconstruct details of the accident.
Desmond showed Cooper pictures of the crash scene, and Cooper pointed out there was force pushed down on the motorcycle, causing it to leave heavy marks on the road. There was also debris and blood seen.
A picture was also shown of Riddle’s wrecked vehicle, a 2008 maroon Ford Mustang, with its airbag deployed.
Cooper concluded that Riddle was driving about 55 miles per hour. The speed limit at the intersection is 45.
The trial will resume today at 9 a.m. with Judge David Duggan presiding.