Ju­rors to hear tape on crash

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - JOHN LYNCH

His girl­friend told him to go when the po­lice car’s blue lights lit up be­hind their stolen Nis­san Max­ima. So he went, reach­ing at least 70 mph and maybe even faster, mur­der sus­pect Jor­dan Matthew Van­den­berghe told Lit­tle Rock po­lice.

Less than a minute later, Van­den­berghe lost con­trol of the car and hit an­other ve­hi­cle in the 10000 block of Chicot Road, po­lice said.

The im­pact sent the Max­ima into a roll, and the car hit a mother and daugh­ter who had been jog­ging on the side­walk, fling­ing their bod­ies into a parked car. Mother of two Tren­dia Penn-Hor­ton, 39, was killed. Her 18-year-old daugh­ter, Nah­tali Dashun­dra Hor­ton, was se­ri­ously in­jured.

Of­fi­cers re­ported Van­den­berghe had heroin on him, and stolen credit cards and So­cial Se­cu­rity cards in his wal­let, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Five hours later, af­ter be­ing treated at a hos­pi­tal for a con­cus­sion, Van­den­berghe told de­tec­tives Kevin Simp­son and Brad Silas why he re­fused to stop when an of­fi­cer tried to pull him over on Base­line Road in Septem­ber 2015. His driver’s li­cense was sus­pended, he said.

“I asked my girl­friend what to do. She said let’s go, and we kept on go­ing,” the Roland man said. “I re­mem­ber hit­ting some­thing. I don’t know what it was. I re­mem­ber swerv­ing, then un­buck­ling my girl­friend, and then I’m in the back of a cop car.”

A Pu­laski County jury will get to hear those words and more next week at Van­den­berghe’s trial, Cir­cuit Judge Leon John­son ruled Thurs­day af­ter lis­ten­ing to the 13-minute in­ter­view played by pros­e­cu­tors To­nia Acker and Ash­ley Bowen.

The judge re­jected ar­gu­ments by de­fense at­tor­ney Les­lie Bor­gognoni that Van­den­berghe, be­cause of the con­cus­sion he’d suf­fered, didn’t know what he was do­ing when he talked to po­lice that night.

Van­den­berghe is charged with first- de­gree mur­der, first-de­gree bat­tery, felony flee­ing, theft and drug pos­ses­sion. The charges to­gether carry a po­ten­tial life sen­tence.

“Fast enough that I wrecked,” Van­den­berghe said when Simp­son asked him to de­scribe his speed that night. Pressed by the de­tec­tive for more de­tails, the de­fen­dant said he re­mem­bered pass­ing cars and es­ti­mated he was driv­ing at least 70 mph, pos­si­bly reach­ing 90 mph.

“I never looked down to see how fast I was go­ing,” he said.

Van­den­berghe’s voice wa­vered when asked whether he saw any pedes­tri­ans. He told the de­tec­tives he didn’t and other of­fi­cers told him what had hap­pened.

“They told me I killed some­one,” he said.

He re­peat­edly told the de­tec­tives he couldn’t clearly re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing that had hap­pened. Simp­son sounded skep­ti­cal.

“Do you re­ally not re­mem­ber or do you want not to re­mem­ber,” the de­tec­tive asked.

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