Jurors to hear tape on crash
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.