Blood tests allowed, cell records questioned in fatal wreck case

Weeks

Blood samples taken as part of a Graves County murder investigation are admissible, but now cell phone records are in question.

Christina Weeks, 43, of Clinton faces murder, wanton endangerment and other charges in connection with the October 2017 wreck that killed 80-year-old Marilyn Armbruster.

Her attorney, Lisa DeRenard, previously contended Weeks did not give permission for her blood to be taken at the wreck scene on Ky. 58, 4 miles southwest of Wingo. At a suppression hearing in August, Deputy Sheriff Jason Harpole said she did give it. Graves Circuit Judge Tim Stark has ruled Weeks did give consent.

"Deputy Harpole's testimony was clear that consent was given, and the Defendant has more impetus to misstate the fact of that matter than the officer," Stark wrote in the order, which he issued last week.

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney J.J. Beasley had urged Stark through a written reply to a defense motion to rule the blood test consent had been given, saying that Harpole's memory that day was clearer. Weeks was seriously injured in the wreck, and she said in the hearing last month that she had memory problems, could not remember some portions of the day of the wreck and suffered a traumatic brain injury. She had taken prescribed hydrocodone pain medication the day of the wreck and was in extreme pain following the wreck, she testified.

DeRenard had argued that Harpole didn't get a warrant for the blood samples, only for results of blood tests he believed Vanderbilt University Medical Center would have. Instead, the hospital gave him Weeks' blood samples.

"The hospital was not a state actor, and obtaining the blood was not the result of a search, illegal or otherwise," Stark wrote in his order.

DeRenard had also argued that the blood test results would not indicate whether Weeks was impaired when driving as the samples may have been taken after the hospital gave Weeks narcotic pain medication. She also noted that the officer did not witness the blood being taken, that he didn't know who drew the blood and that the blood samples were not dated.

Following Stark's ruling concerning the blood samples Sept. 9, DeRenard filed motions later in the week concerning Weeks' seized cell phone. She asked that any cell phone evidence be suppressed and also asked to compel prosecutors to produce any cell phone records they may have. Stark set a hearing regarding those issues for Oct. 11. De-Renard noted in her new motion that Weeks was not under arrest when Harpole took Weeks' phone.

"The warrantless seizure of the cell phone violated Defendant's 4th and 14th rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure by the government or it's officials," DeRenard wrote in her motion.

She also criticized public statements she said prosecutors made to the media.

"Agents for the Commonwealth have released information to the media that the defendant was talking on a cell phone when the collision on 10/18/2017 occurred, (and) the media has reported that information to the public at large both on television and in written form more than 10 times," DeRenard wrote.

According to a report at the time of the wreck, witnesses stated that Weeks' 2011 Kia Soul was eastbound when, for unknown reasons, she crossed the center line and collided head-on with the westbound 2007 Ford, driven by Armbruster. Both Weeks and Armbruster were flown by Air Evac helicopter ambulance to out-of-state hospitals with incapacitating injuries.

Armbruster later died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Trauma Center, according to the sheriff's office. Two passengers in Armbruster's vehicle, Joseph Green, 41, and Gracie Green, 6, both of Wingo, were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

Former Commonwealth Attorney David Hargrove argued at a previous hearing that the evidence showed Weeks had a "fairly high degree of drugs in her system."