Testimony underway in fatal crash murder trial

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)  A jury comprised of eight women and four men has been seated for the trial of a man charged with murder in connection with the death of a 17-year-old Bishop Dwenger High School student in March of 2014.

Jeremy Washington is accused of driving drunk when he sped through a red light at the intersection of Stellhorn and Hobson around midnight on March 29, and hit a car driven by Haley Nellum, who was coming home from a friend’s house. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Court documents indicate the collision took place after Washington had fled from the Corner Pocket Pub where he had gotten into a fight with some other men and it had escalated to the point where shots were fired by both parties.

Jury Selection and Opening Statements

Jeremy Washington at the Allen County Courthouse on day two of his trial for the murder of Haley Nellum.
Jeremy Washington at the Allen County Courthouse on day two of his trial for the murder of Haley Nellum.

Jury selection began Monday and wrapped up early Tuesday afternoon.   The jury was selected from a pool of more than 170 potential jurors.  The three alternate jurors are all women. The trial is scheduled for 10 days.

After Judge John Surbeck read through the charges and jury instructions, opening arguments got underway.

Members of the Washington family and the Nellum family attended the court proceedings.  Some of the Nellum family were visibly emotional and could be seen crying.

The opening statements started with the prosecution, who maintained in opening arguments that Washington targeted the group he shot at and was driving 100 mph when he hit and killed Nellum. The prosecution also gave more information about the other group of men that Washington and three of his friends met at the Corner Pocket Bar earlier that night. It’s the same group that police said Washington later shot at in the parking lot of the bar.  The prosecution’s opening statement lasted about 25 minutes.

In the opening statements by the defense, led by public defender Michelle Kraus, it was argued that the chain of events happened very fast and that Washington saw a gun first and then fired the shots in self-defense and was just trying to get away when he crashed into Nellum’s vehicle.  The defense asked the jury to not find Washington guilty on all 11 counts, but to not necessarily find him not guilty at all. The defense’s opening statement lasted about a half hour.

Haley Nellum, 17, (left) was killed in March of 2014.
Haley Nellum, 17, (left) was killed in March of 2014.

Both the prosecution and defense agreed that alcohol played a major factor in the case.

Trial Testimony

Two people were called to the stand to testify on Tuesday afternoon. Nellum’s mother, Laura Nellum, went first and became very emotional as she had to recall the night her daughter died. She mentioned calling and texting Haley multiple times that night and not getting a hold of her. Laura even drove by the crash scene on her way home from a friend’s house only to not find Haley’s car in the driveway. She also talked about reading those very same text messages and listening to the voicemail messages she left Haley that night when they found Haley’s phone in the trunk of her car at the crash scene. Her testimony ended with her identifying Haley’s sophomore school picture to the jury. Her testimony lasted about eight minutes. She immediately left the courtroom after, but later came back

The second person called up was one of the men involved in the fight and shooting at the Corner Pocket Bar. He became emotional while talking about his friend getting shot and thinking he was going to die. He claims he never had a gun with him, and that Washington started shooting at he and his two friends in the Corner Pocket parking lot. He called getting shot at the “worst feeling of his life.” That testimony lasted several hours, with a couple of breaks in between. The cross-examination from the defense is expected to start Wednesday morning.

Charges Facing Jeremy Washington

Besides the murder charge, Washington also faces three counts of attempted murder, aggravated battery, reckless homicide, causing death while operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, causing serious bodily injury when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and three counts of criminal recklessness committed while armed with a deadly weapon.

The second day of the trial wrapped up around 6:30 Tuesday night. The third day of the trial is expected to start around 9:00 Wednesday morning.

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