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Jury must figure out who was driving in fatal wreck

June 24, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Berkeley County jury will begin deliberations this morning to decide if a Martinsburg man was behind the wheel in a 1998 crash that killed his 16-year-old friend.

Two days of testimony came to an end Thursday for the state's case against Richard D. Jones II, who is charged with driving under the influence causing death in a Feb. 22, 1998, crash that killed Aaron James Setting of Martinsburg.

Defense lawyers for Jones, 19, claim there is no proof that Jones was driving the car when the accident happened.

"Fact is, folks, nobody knows who was driving," defense attorney Tom Stanley told the jury in his closing arguments Thursday afternoon.

West Virginia State Police said Jones, who had a learner's permit at the time of the accident, crossed the center line on Berkeley Station Road and hit a station wagon.

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The car carrying Jones and Setting ran off the west shoulder and struck a telephone pole, police said.

The impact split the car apart and ejected both Jones and Setting, who were not wearing seat belts, police said.

Setting, a junior at Hedgesville High School, died at the scene.

Jones received fractures to his head, pelvis and shoulder, according to court testimony.

Jones did not testify at his trial.

A doctor testified that Jones had amnesia after the accident and could not remember who was driving the car.

Defense attorneys acknowledged both Jones and Setting were legally drunk at the time of the accident and were not wearing seat belts.

Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely told jurors there was enough circumstantial evidence to place Jones behind the wheel at the time of the accident.

The car the two were in belonged to Jones' mother, and Games-Neely said Jones had told investigators he had driven the car that night.

Games-Neely said Setting's shoes were found on the floorboard of the passenger side of the car and that physical evidence indicated Setting was ejected through the windshield.

"In this case, dead men do tell tales," Games-Neely said.

A DUI with death charge carries a 1-to-10-year prison term and a $1,000 to $3,000 fine.

Jury deliberations are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Friday in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

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