Trial: Ex-medic had less than 4 beers before deadly wreck
Defense lawyers intend to prove that Terri Elmore, who had a BAC of 0.20, was not drunk in a crash that killed a Texas pastor and his wife
By Jazmine Ulloa
AUSTIN, Texas — Nancy Stewart testified Monday that she saw her friend and co-worker, Terri Elmore, drink about three and a half beers in almost four hours the night Elmore was involved in a crash that killed a pastor and his wife in southwestern Travis County.
Defense lawyers say they intend to prove that Elmore was not intoxicated and that the wreck was a tragic accident, though as her trial began they did not explain medical records that say Elmore’s blood alcohol content was 0.20 that night, more than double the legal limit.
In opening statements, prosecutors told jurors evidence in the upcoming days would show that Elmore, an ex-paramedic, was drunk when she got behind the wheel and thus caused the head-on collision that killed Ernest and Barbara Boyett in November 2011.
Elmore, who is out of jail on bail, is on trial this week on two counts of intoxication manslaughter with a deadly weapon, offenses each carrying a penalty of between two to 20 years in prison.
About half a dozen members of Dayspring Fellowship church, where Ernest Boyett served as a pastor, declined comment Monday as they left the courtroom. In previous interviews, they have said they were glad Elmore would get her day in court. Boyett was the founding pastor at Dayspring when it began in a South Austin home in 1978.
The church has about 200 members, many of whom travel from as far away as Marble Falls, San Marcos and Leander to attend, their members said.
Elmore, 42, was a registered paramedic at the time of the wreck Nov. 29, 2011. Court records say she was traveling west on U.S. 290 near Baxter Lane when her 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser crossed the center line and hit the Boyetts’ van head-on.
The couple died at the scene, and Elmore was flown to a hospital with serious injuries.
In court Monday, Assistant District Attorney Mona Shea said that Elmore had left an Oak Hill restaurant and bar, where she had been drinking with Stewart, less than 15 minutes before the crash and that the defendant had a blood alcohol level several times over the legal limit.
“During this trial, you are going to get to hear who the Rev. Ernest and Barbara Boyett were,” from the people whose lives they touched, the prosecutor said.
Defense lawyer James Erickson countered that jurors would learn Elmore had about four beers over four hours and had not been intoxicated. Elmore had to be flown to a hospital the night of the wreck and spent nine days in the intensive care unit, her attorney said.
A former paramedic, Elmore had been in nursing school and had never been in trouble with the law before, Erickson told jurors.
“This case represents a tragedy for the Boyetts. It also represents a tragedy for Terri and her family,” the defense lawyer said. “Sometimes, an accident is just an accident.”
On the stand, Stewart said she and Terri had left work at about 4 p.m. after their day shift and had met at Jack Allen’s Kitchen, where she said she saw Elmore drink three to three and half beers and did not order any food. Throughout the night, Elmore took multiple calls from her now ex-boyfriend, with whom she had been arguing, Stewart said.
At the hospital the night after the wreck, she spoke with a state trooper and an official with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and told them she had been worried Elmore had left the restaurant upset but did not recall sharing concerns about her friend’s alcohol consumption that night.
She refused to give a written statement at the time, Stewart told jurors.
“I just didn't feel comfortable with that,” she testified.
“Were you concerned law enforcement would begin looking at you?” Shea asked. “I think I was,” the witness responded.
Testimony will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday.