A second trial of a Gray Court woman charged with felony DUI in the death of a man working near Exit 19 on I-385 and the serious injury of another got under way Monday.
The first trial in March ended in a mistrial when the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict as to whether Pamela Michelle Tackett, 32, was under the influence of prescription drugs and marijuana when the car she was driving left the road, slamming between a work truck and the median catch fence and striking Zach Ivey and John Howell on March 28, 2018.
Ivey was thrown some 75 feet onto I-385 and was pronounced dead days later at Greenville Memorial Hospital. Howell suffered severe leg injuries and spent months recovering in the hospital. Both men worked for Bagwell Fence Company.
As in the first trial, the prosecution led by 8th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Warren Mowry and Special Assistant Solicitor R. Knox McMahon, introduced three witnesses Monday, two of whom testified that they saw Tackett driving erratically on I-385 before coming upon the accident scene. The third, Sherrie Abercrombie of Simpsonville, arrived from the other direction on I-385 immediately after the wreck occurred.
“People observed signs of erratic driving before there were signs of drugs,” said McMahon in his opening statement to a jury of nine women and three men. “There were signs that she was under the influence of six-to-eight drugs, all prescribed.”
The prosecution is expected to introduce expert witnesses on toxicology today as the trial continues. Defense attorney David Stoddard will introduce witnesses for the defense after the prosecution rests its case in front of veteran Judge Roger Couch.
The jury heard testimony and reviewed body-cam footage Tuesday morning from former South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Gabriele, who investigated the accident.
Gabriele, who now works for the Greenville Police Department, said after speaking with Tackett at the scene of the wreck and conducting field sobriety tests on her, he charged her with driving under the influence (DUI).
Body-cam footage showed Tackett complaining of migraine headaches and struggling to communicate with Gabriele and perform the field sobriety tests as instructed.
“I believe she was under the influence of something other than alcohol,” Gabriele said.
In the previous trial, Stoddard convinced at least some jurors that a combination of mental and physical health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, migraine headaches, anxiety and phobias, plagued Tackett, causing her to pass out behind the wheel.
In addition to the felony DUI charge, Tackett also faces a count of child endangerment. A 4-year-old girl was in the rear passenger seat when the wreck occurred but was not injured.