Man accused of drunken driving in death of Gary Lillie to face trial
The man accused of hitting and killing veteran’s advocate Gary Lillie with his car while he was intoxicated had his court case bound over to Washtenaw County Trial Court Friday.
More details on the accident emerged at Friday’s hearing, which was a continuation of a previous preliminary hearing in September.
The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office investigator assigned to the case said during testimony that Kevin Warren’s Chevrolet Avalanche was traveling between 34 and 42 miles per hour when he struck Lillie with the passenger side of his vehicle, killing him almost instantly.
Detective Robert Losey said there was no evidence that Warren’s vehicle braked suddenly or swerved in an attempt to not hit Lillie.
Losey described a number of tests he did to determine the speed of the Avalanche, where the point of impact was and any possible movements the vehicle made leading up to the crash. He said the damage left on the Avalanche showed burn marks from Lillie’s black nylon shorts and green button-down shirt on the vehicle.
“The impact, we say and I observed on the vehicle, was consistent with the striking of the pedestrian,” he said.
The charges come from the crash, which occurred after 11 p.m. Aug. 4 on Marshall Road near Baker Road. Police say Warren was eastbound on Marshall Road when he struck Lillie, 70, who was walking in the same direction.
In the previous hearing, Warren’s blood alcohol level was shown to be .12 after the crash — higher than the .08 legal limit in Michigan. A video from a police vehicle on sight showed Warren said he dropped his cell phone and was reaching for it when he struck Lillie. He also originally believed the collision was with a deer, according to his attorney, John Shea.
Warren is charged with operating while intoxicated causing death and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Washtenaw County Chief Medical Examiner Jeff Jentzen testified the impact of the crash caused so many severe injuries that Lillie would have been dead immediately following the crash.
The official cause of death were head and neck injuries sustained in the crash and what Jentzen called “crushing chest injuries.”
The impact of the crash caused Lillie’s body to wrap around the front, passenger side of the Avalanche, Losey said. The injuries described by Jentzen were consistent with that finding, testifying there was deep bruising in Lillie’s legs, tears in Lillie’s liver and spleen and a hemorrhage into the chest cavity.
Jentzen said Lillie wouldn’t have been conscious at the scene and, even if he had received medical attention seconds after the accident, he would not have survived.
Losey said Warren’s vehicle never left the roadway and his investigation showed the vehicle’s low beams were on, but not the high beams. He said he and another investigator returned to the scene on Aug. 18 to conduct an investigation with nighttime visibility.
The other investigator wore similar clothes to what Lillie was wearing and Losey drove a different Chevrolet Avalanche at about the same speed Warren was allegedly going. Losey said he could see the investigator when he was still 250 feet away.
According to Losey, it takes about 1.5 seconds for a driver to make the decision to brake or swerve. If Warren was traveling 42 miles per hour, it would have taken him 183 feet to come to a stop and approximately 92 feet in order to swerve around Lillie, Losey said.
Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecutor Brenda Taylor said Warren’s decision to drive home immediately following the crash, return to the scene to check what he had hit and then drive back home to call police showed a guilty conscience.
“He went home and his conscience got the better of him. He went back to the scene, hoping to see a dead deer but instead he saw a jogger,” she said.
Warren will appear before Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge David Swartz on at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 10 for a pretrial hearing. He is not currently in custody.
Shea said Warren truly believed he had hit a deer, which is why he left the scene of the crash. He said he was grabbing his cell phone and felt an impact, and when he looked up all he saw was a flash of white, leading him to believe it was a deer. Lillie was wearing black nylon shorts, a white t-shirt and a green button down shirt when he was killed.
Shea said leaving the scene of a crash between a motor vehicle and a deer is not a crime, and it wasn’t until he returned that he discovered he may have hit Lillie.
“If he was trying to avoid the accident, he wouldn’t have made the call at all,” Shea said.