December 19, 2014

Elyria
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test

Warrant seeking blood sample in vehicular homicide case misplaced

Chris DeWitt

Chris DeWitt

ELYRIA — A search warrant for the blood of an Elyria man facing vehicular homicide and other charges for allegedly causing a fatal crash last year has disappeared.

Without the warrant for Christopher DeWitt’s blood, defense attorney Brian Darling argued Monday the results of the blood test shouldn’t be admitted in the case against his client.

Prosecutors contend that DeWitt, 21, was high on marijuana at the time of the May 16, 2013, crash that claimed the life of 28-year-old Dale Welty.

DeWitt was driving a Ford F-350 south on Baumhart Road in Brownhelm Township when he veered left of center and his pickup sideswiped a northbound 2001 Pontiac Grand Am driven by Brandon Danicki.

The pickup then crashed head-on into Welty’s 1994 Honda Civic. The pickup overturned, went off the side of the road and struck a guardrail, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.

Troopers said they found marijuana at the scene in a lunchbox belonging to DeWitt.

Danicki and a passenger in DeWitt’s truck weren’t injured, but DeWitt was transported to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where he was treated and released.

While he was hospitalized, prosecutors in Lorain County prepared a search warrant to get his blood and a trooper took the document to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose to get it approved.

The trooper took the signed warrant to the hospital and the blood was drawn. The trooper returned the warrant to Ambrose’s home and gave it to his wife.

Ambrose testified Monday in a hearing before Lorain County Common Pleas Judge John Miraldi that wasn’t the usual protocol, so he took the document with him to work, but has no idea what became of it.

He said he recalled the visit from the trooper and signing the warrant. Ambrose said a draft copy of the document shown to him in court appeared familiar, but he didn’t recall the specific details from a year ago.

After the hearing, Darling said that there were actually two blood draws performed on his client, one of which prosecutors contend his client gave consent for, which DeWitt denies, and the one the warrant was obtained for.

One of the tests shows DeWitt had 36.29 nanograms of marijuana in his system, while the other shows a level of 49.54 nanograms, Darling said. The legal driving limit for marijuana in Ohio is 50 nanograms or less, Darling said.

But even though his client was under the legal limit, he still could be considered impaired, Darling said.

He also said that it can be hard to determine how long before a test someone smoked marijuana because traces of the drug linger in the system for a long time. Darling said DeWitt denies smoking marijuana on the day of the crash, although he declined to say when his client last used the drug.

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said even if the warrant isn’t found, he doesn’t believe it will preclude the use of the blood test in the case against DeWitt. He said there’s no evidence that anything was deliberately done improperly with the warrant.

“There’s case law to argue it is permissible,” Will said. “The blood would still be admissible because it was taken in good faith.”

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.