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Drivers testify about fatal North Roan Street crash

May 19th, 2007 12:21 am by DEE GOODIN

JOHNSON CITY - Friday was another day of emotional testimony in the North Roan Street crash trial as jurors heard Courtney Beard describe her injuries and Bradley Mullins' recollection of the events that led to those injuries and the death of Beard's best friend, Cortney Hensley of Telford.

Mullins, 19, 116 Spring City Drive, and David Phillips, 39, No. 1 Creston Court, are charged with second-degree murder in the death of Hensley and attempted second-degree murder in Beard's injuries.

Jurors listened as Beard told about waking up in Vanderbilt Hospital's burn unit in Nashville and having no idea where she was or why.

Asked by Special Prosecutor Al Schmutzer what she remembered of the night of Sept. 24, 2005, Beard said, "Not much at all, it's all very blurry."

Beard said she and Hensley had gone to a Walgreens to pick up pictures taken the night before, when Hensley was crowned David Crockett High School's homecoming queen.

Beard said when she woke up in Vanderbilt, she had a tube in her throat and "didn't know what happened or what was going on." While in Nashville, she underwent nine surgeries. She is scheduled for more surgery in June.

Voted "class beauty" while a Unicoi County High School student, Beard calmly described how skin was taken from both of her legs, from her ankle to her bikini line, in order to repair damage from the burns.

"Obviously my face is burned," Beard said. "It burned the left side worse. My whole left arm was burned."

Beard was Schmutzer's final witness, and the prosecution then rested its case.

Schmutzer's previous witnesses included Stephanie Demeria, who testified she and her husband were out the night of Sept. 24, and when they came upon the crash they recognized the red Dodge Viper as one they had seen earlier in the evening. According to Demeria, the two were in their Dodge Neon when the Viper pulled up next to them and the driver began pulling his car forward, then rolling it back.

She said after the two did not respond, she saw the Viper pull up next to a Nissan 350ZX and the two "just took off."

Ben Stevens of Elizabethton testified he first noticed the Viper when Stevens was in the right lane of North Roan Street and the Viper's driver cut him off.

"As soon as I started to pull up to the red light, he cut me off," Stevens said.

He said the Viper then pulled parallel to the Mustang driven by Mullins and started "inching up" to the stop light.

"He was revving his motor and inching up like he was going to run the red light."

When Schmutzer asked about the Mustang, Stevens said, "He didn't move an inch."

Stevens said when the traffic light turned green, "both of them took off like a shot. I heard a noise come out of the Mustang, a pop, to me it sounded like a turbo charger.

"Mr. Phillips backed off. Then we saw the fireball in the sky and went down to see what happened."

At the scene of the crash, Stevens said he saw the Mustang with the airbags deployed as well as the Honda CRV.

"It was just burning," Stevens said. "No one could get in there. It was just an awful feeling."

Stevens said he then went to "the check cashing place," formerly the Waffle House, at the corner of Springbrook and Roan.

"The Viper was sitting there. He (Phillips) told me he hadn't done anything, that they couldn't pin anything on him. I told him he was wrong. I had a witness in my truck. ... It made me mad when he said he wasn't in a race."

Stevens said the two were "sort of" getting into an altercation when they were separated by police.

Mullins, who was 18 at the time, testified the Mustang was a show car. He said he had customized the vehicle his father had bought for his 16th birthday.

Mullins said after Phillips had revved his engine several times, "I finally revved mine back," adding that often drivers of high-performance vehicles do that as a sort of greeting.

By the time the two vehicles were at the intersection of John Exum Parkway and North Roan Street, Mullins said Phillips revved his engine in a very aggressive manner.

"Something came over me," Mullins said, "I just wanted to get home."

After the crash, Mullins said he burned his hands while attempting to help Beard from the burning vehicle.

Richard Pectol and his associate, Jeff Miles, called James Evangelista to the witness stand. Evangelista testified he, not Stevens, was the one directly behind the Viper. "The driver of the Mustang was (trying to entice) the Viper into a race. ... I heard the driver of the Mustang say, ‘Let's run.'"

Evangelista said that at the intersection of Sunset Drive, Broyles Drive and Roan Street, the black Mustang "shot out, squealing his tires," adding that the Viper pulled away from the intersection "just normal."

Testimony continues today at 1 p.m.

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