Prosecutor: Jury should see photos of triple-fatal crash
Prosecutors want to show a jury crime scene and autopsy photographs related to a triple-fatal crash that occurred when two men allegedly were racing vehicles on Route 422 in West Pottsgrove.
Montgomery County Deputy District Attorney Thomas W. McGoldrick on Monday filed court papers seeking to admit such photos when Shone G. Santiago and Evaughn-Sha Antonio Walters stand trial in connection with the 12:02 a.m. Feb. 4, 2017, crash on eastbound Route 422 in West Pottsgrove that left two people and an unborn child dead.
“The commonwealth contends that, although the photographs depict the victims of a violent and fatal automobile crash, their probative value is extremely high and would outweigh any perceived prejudice to the defendants,” McGoldrick wrote in court papers in preparation for pretrial hearings in the case.
The fact a doctor can describe the victims’ wounds to a jury does not render photographs of the wounds irrelevant, McGoldrick argued.
“Crime scene photographs are relevant if they serve to provide the jury with a better understanding of the crime scene because a jury can often best perform its function if it has not been unduly insulated from gaining a full understanding of the crime itself,” wrote McGoldrick, citing state legal precedent.
Judge Todd D. Eisenberg is expected to hold a hearing on the request before the trial for the two men begins Oct. 16.
Walters, 21, of Washington, D.C., faces two counts of third-degreemurder, one count each of third-degree murder of an unborn child and conspiracy to commit third-degreemurder as well as charges of homicide by vehicle, unsworn falsification to authorities and recklessly endangering other persons in connection with the fatal crash. Walters is represented by defense lawyer Ryan L. Hyde.
Santiago, 22, of New York, N.Y., also faces the murder-related charges and a charge of driving under the influence of marijuana in connection with the incident. Santiago is represented by defense lawyer Jacob A. Gurwitz.
Killed in the crash were Anthony Rodriguez, 23, of East Elmhurst, N.Y., and Marissa Christina Kelly, 20, of Stroudsburg, Monroe County, who were passengers in Santiago’s white BMWsedan. Kelly also was pregnant, authorities said.
Investigators determined Walters and Santiago knew each other by attending UTI technical school in Exton.
The investigation began when West Pottsgrove police responded to the eastbound lanes of Route 422 near the Stowe exit for a report of a one-vehicle crash involving a white 2007 BMWthat left the roadway, crashed through a guard rail and careened 200 feet down an embankment and into a ravine. Santiago, the driver, and passengers Rodriguez and Kelly were trapped inside the overturned vehicle, according to the criminal complaint filed by county Detective David Schanes.
Rodriguez, the front seat passenger, and Kelly, the rear left seat passenger, were declared dead at the scene. Santiago was transported by medical helicopter to Reading Hospital Trauma Center inWest Readingwithmultiple injuries.
An autopsy determined Rodriguez and Kelly suffered blunt force head injuries. Doctors also determined Kelly was 15 weeks pregnant.
Detectives alleged Santiago’s car was traveling at a minimumspeed of 121mph just before the crash.
The crash occurred near a construction area and the posted speed limit is 40 mph and the area is marked by construction zone warning signs, authorities said.
Investigators determined Walters, driving a 2007 Toyota Camry, called 911 and told dispatchers he witnessed a car “run off the road.”
In his initial statement to detectives Walters claimed that Santiago and he were traveling at a slow speed at the eastbound entrance to the Route 422 bypass in Douglassville, Berks County, when a black Dodge Challenger with a Delaware license plate pulled up beside Santiago and then both cars “took off just flying.” Walters claimed he eventually came upon the damaged guard rail, stopped his car and saw Santiago’s car in the ravine upside down.
Walters initially claimed the black Dodge Challenger also stopped at the scene but then fled.
Based on Walters’ descriptions authorities initially searched for a black Dodge Challenger having a Delaware license plate.
However, detectives downloaded a video from Walters’ cellphone depicting an earlier race in the southbound lanes of Route 100 near Shoemaker Road and determined the cars involved where operated by Santiago and Walters, who was filming the race as he drove. During a subsequent March 1 interview Walters then admitted to racing Santiago on Route 100 and later on Route 422 and to lying about a black Dodge being part of the Route 422 race, according to the arrest affidavit.