LIMA — Dueling medical experts were called to the witness stand Monday in Allen County Common Pleas Court as part of a motion hearing requested by attorneys for a young Michigan man facing charges of aggravated vehicular homicide.
Zackery Brown, 22, of Waterford, Michigan, was indicted in January on two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide after a traffic accident on Nov. 10, 2016, that claimed the life of fellow Michigan resident Brenden Wale, a passenger in his vehicle. Both men were students at the University of Northwestern Ohio at the time of the fatal crash.
Brown reportedly told investigating officers he was the driver of the vehicle that crashed on state Route 115 some three miles south of the Putnam County line and also said he had consumed two beers in the hours leading up to the crash. Wale was found by patrol officers slumped over in the passenger seat of Brown’s car with no apparent vital signs. The reporting officer noted that Brown’s speech was slurred at the time he was found at the crash scene.
Dr. Robert Forney, the chief toxicologist with the Lucas County Coroner’s Office, wrote in a report to prosecutors that Brown’s blood alcohol content at the time of the crash was “at least” 0.086 grams per deciliter. That conclusion was based on a blood sample obtained from Brown nearly three hours after the accident.
Defense attorneys subsequently filed a motion with the court challenging Forney’s conclusion and methodology. Forney told the court about a process called retrograde extrapolation, in which forensic scientists work backward from a certain point in time to establish the level of intoxication in an individual.
But attorneys for Brown presented their own expert witness, although Allen County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick objected strenuously to that designation. Judge Jeffrey Reed allowed testimony offered by Dr. Robert Velloto, who said he is trained in clinical pharmacology and has a master’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry, to be entered as coming from an expert witness.
Velloto questioned several aspects of Forney’s methodology and said his report was based largely on assumptions rather than fact. Upon questioning by Waldick, Velloto admitted he does not believe in retrograde extrapolation “at all.”
Reed gave the defense team until Dec. 1 to submit arguments in writing as to why Forney’s summary report should be ruled inadmissible in court. Prosecutors then have 10 days to respond.
A trial date for Brown was tentatively set for Jan. 23.