Driver guilty in deputy’s death
WAYNESBURG – It took a Greene County jury less than two hours to reach a verdict Thursday in the death of Monongalia County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Michael Todd May, 41, who was killed on Feb. 18 by a drunken driver.
Jerod A. Green, 36, of Morgantown, W.Va., was found guilty third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle in an emergency response area and fleeing or eluding a police officer while DUI and crossing a state line. Green showed no reaction as the verdict was read and very little emotion during the trial.
Juror John Lovingood of Waynesburg said the jury did not feel Green was guilty of first-degree murder, “But he was certainly guilty of all of the other offenses.”
Green, who previously pleaded guilty to four known DUI charges in Oklahoma and served time in that state for those charges, had a blood-alcohol content on the morning of the accident of 0.189 percent, more than two times the legal limit in the state of Pennsylvania.
Greene County District Attorney Marjorie Fox said, “We appreciate the assistance of all the law enforcement agencies who attempted to intercept and stop Jerod Green and who provided assistance in this investigation. Regrettably, Sgt. May was one of those officers,” she said. “He paid the ultimate price for upholding his oath to serve and protect the public.”
Fox went on to acknowledge the efforts of the emergency responders, including 911 operators, who assisted law enforcement throughout the pursuit and following the crash on Interstate 79 near Mt. Morris.
In closing arguments Thursday morning, Green’s attorney, John Bongivengo told the jury the blame for the accident lay with May for placing himself in an unsafe location.
“At some point, Deputy May decided to place his car in front of Jerod,” he said. Bongivengo said it didn’t matter if May was traveling at 12 or 30 miles per hour. It gave no time for Green to react, he said, and he did not dispute the fact his client was guilty of driving under the influence or fleeing officers.
“If he (Sgt. May) stops in the median Jerod continues and this chase proceeds into West Virginia,” Bongivengo said. He added that a charge of first-degree murder was not proven because there was no malice or intent to kill May. “There is plenty of doubt as to intent and causation,” he said.
In her closing, Fox reminded the jury of the text messages Green sent to two former girlfriends beginning on the night of Feb. 17 and into the morning hours of the accident involving May.
“I’m gonna fall of the wagon. I am going to Ruby Tuesdays and then straight to hell. With what I have planned I have no other choice,” she said, reciting the text information. “Holly, you were right to leave me. I am the devil. I don’t deserve to live this life with anyone else.”
Fox reminded them that Green hit another vehicle around 1 a.m.
“Skylar Johnson sees the full-size pickup truck coming toward her and she makes an evasive maneuver to the right but is still struck by the truck. She only loses her car in this encounter with Mr. Green,” Fox said.
Fox recalled the testimony of officers who pursued Green who said the crash sounded like a bomb going off and then anti-freeze and debris rained down on them.
“Just like Skylar he (May) saw the lights coming and made an evasive maneuver but neither one could avoid Jerod Green. By that time ladies and gentleman, the speeding bullet is already out of the chamber and he (Green) can’t catch that bullet. It is too late,” Fox said. She added how much farther into the roadway the crash occurred didn’t matter as much as the choices Green made along the way that led to it.
Sentencing was deferred pending preparation of a pre-sentence investigation. Green faces additional charges in Monongalia County, W.Va., including, two counts of malicious wounding, one count of third offense or subsequent DUI, one count of fleeing DUI and one count fleeing.