Text messages: Homicide-by-vehicle suspect was self-destructive
Defendant Jerod Green enters Greene County Judge William Nalitz’s courtroom for the second day of his homicide-by-vehicle trial Tuesday.
Tara Kinsell / Observer-Reporter
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WAYNESBURG – In the second day of a homicide-by-vehicle trial, testimony presented by Greene County District Attorney Marjorie Fox Tuesday painted a self-destructive picture of West Virginia driver Jerod Green.
According to police, Green, 36, of Morgantown, led West Virginia police on a chase Feb. 18 that ended in a violent crash, just south of the Interstate 79 south on-ramp at Mt. Morris. Green’s Chevy Silverado pickup truck struck a marked Jeep Grand Cherokee occupied by Monongalia County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Todd May, 41, of Morgantown, who died en route to Ruby Memorial Hospital, Morgantown.
Pennsylvania state Trooper Donald Scott Lucas, an expert in digital and cellphone forensics with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, validated a series of text messages between Green and two women from Feb. 17 to 18 that were presented to the jury. In the texts, Green asks one of the women, referred to as Jennifer, to join him for dinner Feb. 17. When she doesn’t respond affirmatively, he tells her to just forget it. He then said he understood why someone would not care about him, referring to himself as a “nobody.” She assures Green that is not true.
When she asked where Green was going, he said, “Ruby Tuesdays then straight to hell.” Jennifer responded that Green was not going to hell because she would not allow it, and he responded, “With what I have planned I have no choice.”
Lucas testified, in a final series of text messages that began shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 18, Green sent a text to Jennifer that asked her to call him because he was in trouble. She simply responded “okay,” and Green texted back for her to hurry. A few minutes later, Green sends a final text to her that said, “You don’t care, nobody does. I’m getting ready to go away forever.”
According to accounts presented in court, this series of text messages came within 20 minutes after a hit-and-run accident that occurred on Easton Hill Road in Morgantown involving Green and Skylar Johnson, 19, of Morgantown. It was this accident from which Green fled, leading police on the chase that ended in the crash on I-79 in Mt. Morris.
Other testimony presented by the prosecution Tuesday morning came from paramedic Daniel Efaw, who transported May to Ruby Memorial Hospital, Monongalia County Assistant 911 Director Jason Rice and Lori Fetty, the 911 dispatcher for Monongalia County who was working Feb. 17 and 18.
A recording of the 911 transmissions between Fetty and officers involved in the pursuit of Green, including the final transmission from May, was heard by the jury, along with a garbled voicemail message left by Green for his former girlfriend, Holly Brotherton, of Morgantown, shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 18. In it, Green tells her he doesn’t have her parents’ phone number where she is staying and to “Just know that Jarod loves you. Bye-Bye.”
During testimony by Dr. James A. Kaplan, West Virginia chief medical examiner, via video conference from Charleston, W.Va., injuries sustained by May were detailed. Kaplan concluded May suffered brain injuries that were “incompatible with life,” explaining that May’s death was the “direct result of the violent forces that were put into play when the second vehicle (Green’s truck) struck his police cruiser.”
Defense attorney John Bongivengo questioned if Kaplan knew where May was found in the vehicle. Kaplan said he knew he was in the back seat and confirmed he had not been wearing a seat belt. When Bongivengo asked if a seat belt might have saved his life, Kaplan said it was possible. In response to this line of questioning, Fox asked, if in the absence of the high-speed car crash, would May have died as a result of driving without his seat belt? Kaplan said he would not have.
The final witness to testify Tuesday was accident reconstruction expert Cpl. John Weaver of the Pennsylvania State Police. Weaver presented several diagrams and photos explaining how and where the accident took place on I-79. Weaver determined both vehicles were in sound mechanical order and there was no adverse weather or road condition Feb. 18.
Using the onboard factory installed equipment in both vehicles, Weaver ascertained information he calculated into his final crash report. Additionally, Weaver and another officer, using the same model, make and year Silverado driven by Green, entered the on-ramp of I-79 southbound at Mt. Morris while recording what they saw. Weaver said there was clear visibility from there to the West Virginia state line. He indicated there was about 30 feet of clear path between Green’s and May’s vehicles that was easily visible to someone driving on the on-ramp.
“For some reason, instead of taking the open path, he (Green) moves towards his (Sgt. May’s) vehicle,” Weaver said. He noted the control module installed in the Silverado indicated Green was traveling at 98 mph for 2.5 seconds prior to impact. The data from the Jeep showed May was traveling at 31 mph.
Weaver said his reconstruction of the accident was consistent with May driving north in the grassy median prior to making a turn onto I-79 south. Weaver noted May had both his overhead lights flashing and his wig-wags or flashing headlights also activated. He said his findings did not indicate that May was attempting to drive into Green’s path or to set up a roadblock of some sort. Instead, he concluded May was positioning his vehicle to join the pursuit.
May had three options, according to Weaver, when he saw the pickup truck quickly approaching his vehicle. The first option was to drive straight, which would have kept him in the path of Green’s vehicle; steer right and expose his driver’s side door; or make a hard left turn while accelerating in an effort to avoid the collision. That is what Weaver concluded May was doing when the front ends of both vehicles collided. Green’s vehicle appeared to be veering to the right, away from May, in the reconstruction. However, the onboard data from the truck and marks on the roadway indicated that Green never hit his brakes from the time he entered the on-ramp until the point of collision, according to Weaver.
Testimony in the case will continue at 9 a.m. today in front of Judge William Nalitz with Bongivengo cross-examining Weaver on accident reconstruction photos presented Tuesday.