Man charged in crash that killed two girls goes on trial
Suspect denies he was driving, blames ex-girlfriend
Emerald Smith (Family photo / June 14, 2011)
The female driver admitted being involved in an accident on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Baltimore but was "unsure what she hit," according to the police report. The man in the passenger seat said he had been asleep and remembered nothing.
But prosecutors hope to show this week that the two switched seats in the 26 minutes between the time the car killed 16-year-old Courtney Angeles and 17-year-old Emerald Smith, and when the officer stopped the battered Lincoln in Anne Arundel County.
At a Baltimore Circuit Court trial scheduled to start Wednesday, prosecutors will try to convince a jury that Reuben Dunn, 28, was behind the wheel — an allegation disputed by Dunn's attorney. He has been charged with two counts of automobile manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident and driving under the influence of alcohol
The June 13 accident plunged Southwest Baltimore's tight Pigtown neighborhood into mourning. Relatives gathered at the scene and at their homes, angry that the driver never stopped. The girls, who had been best friends since kindergarten and grew up a block from each other, had been going to visit a friend when they were struck at the Pratt Street intersection about 11:40 p.m.
Courtney's mother, Pamela Mendell-Morales, said she visits her eldest daughter's grave regularly, sometimes taking a red rose. "My girls will always be my everything," she said. "I live and breathe for my children.
"Those kids were hit like they were dogs in the street, and the car kept going," the mother said. Of Courtney, she added, "We will miss her dearly."
Court documents show that prosecutors have hinged their case largely on the testimony of Kendra Myles, the 26-year-old woman who was driving the Lincoln when it was stopped near the airport. Two months after the crash, Myles changed her story and told police that Dunn had been driving when the girls were hit, according to court documents.
Myles has pleaded guilty to two counts of being an accessory after the fact and faces a suspended five-year sentence and probation — with the promise her record could be expunged after she testifies against Dunn, the father of her two children. Her attorney, Keith H. Roberts, did not return several calls to his office for comment.
But defense attorney James L. Rhodes said authorities lack any physical evidence to prove Dunn was behind the wheel and have no proof that his client had been "drinking all day," as a prosecutor alleged at a bail hearing.
Rhodes said the traffic signal was green or yellow at the time of the crash, indicating the victims were crossing against a light. A red-light camera at the intersection at Pratt Street was working but did not snap a photo — proof that the light was not red, he said.
The attorney also said that police never had Dunn take a Breathalyzer test, even though a prosecutor alleged that Dunn had been drinking.
"If my client is as stumbling drunk as the police make out, it makes no sense that [Myles] would give him the vehicle to drive," Rhodes said. "No one is going to believe that ... she said, 'Let me give the drunk guy the keys.'"
Referring to Myles' revised statement, which a prosecutor read in court when she pleaded guilty, Rhodes said, "It's not until she gets an attorney that all of a sudden something changes. Police have absolutely no one to corroborate."
Myles' statement, Rhodes said, "is all the prosecutors have. That's it." He said that "at the worst-case scenario, my client had a yellow light and was proceeding through it."
Spokesmen for the Baltimore Police Department, which investigated the accident, and for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, whose officer pulled over the Lincoln, declined to comment, citing the open investigation.
Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office, also declined to comment, citing his office's policy against speaking publicly about cases pending in court. Officials would not say why neither occupant of the car was tested for alcohol.
The statement of facts read into the court record during Myles' hearing in November offers a vivid account of the accident that killed the girls.
Assistant State's Attorney Robyne Szokoly said Myles and Dunn left Severn, where they live, the evening of June 13 and headed for Frisby Street in Govans to move furniture for Myles' mother. When they were done, she said, Dunn went to a friend's house. About 7:30 p.m., Szokoly said, "Ms. Myles said Mr. Dunn was drinking a beer."