Shaela Warkentin gives testimony in DUI case
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Emotions spilled in court Thursday as a Fresno man saw the teenager he's accused of seriously hurting while he was driving under the influence. The crash blinded then-16-year-old Shaela Warkentin.
Douglas Lindsey hadn't seen the teenager since the day of the crash 13 months ago until she came into the courtroom Thursday. He shed a lot of tears at their second encounter as she gave testimony that could put him in prison.
One look was all it took. Lindsey started sobbing when he saw Shaela Warkentin walk into court. Now 17, Warkentin needed her father's help to take the witness stand and testify against Lindsey in his DUI trial. Her testimony lasted less than four minutes, but it was powerful. Warkentin said she had good vision before the wreck in March 2011. When she woke up in a hospital, she was blind. "I think I just couldn't see and I thought I had something over my eyes, but other than that I kind of just accepted it," she said.
Lindsey had rear-ended the Mustang Warkentin's sister, Karissa, was driving -- with Shaela in the back seat. "We were stopped and all of the sudden I heard screeching and I looked in my rear view mirror and I saw headlights and then we were hit," said Karissa Warkentin.
Firefighters had to cut Shaela out of the car and paramedics thought she'd die, but between their life-saving efforts and her will to live, she pulled through.
An accident reconstruction showed Lindsey was going at least 54 miles per hour -- almost 20 over the speed limit. He started braking just 38 feet before the crash -- far too late to avoid the collision. But police didn't note any impairment from Lindsey and they let him leave the scene of the crash. It was only after a blood test showed he had both Xanax and Vicodin in his system that prosecutors filed charges. And as the evidence mounted against him in court, the judge took note of both his tears, and Shaela's strength.
"I think she's an extraordinary individual," said Judge W. Kent Hamlin. "I think he's undoubtedly remorseful for the conduct, but it makes it none the less criminal."
The judge decided there's enough evidence for Lindsey to stand trial. He's due back in court in two weeks. Prosecutors say he faces a maximum of six years in prison if he's convicted.
crimetracker, dui, court, fresno, fresno county, local, corin hoggard
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