Closing arguments presented in trial of triple fatal 2019 St. Patrick’s Day crash

Abby Michaels, 25, waived her right to a jury trial so Montgomery County Common Pleas Court...
Abby Michaels, 25, waived her right to a jury trial so Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Dankof will decide the case.
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 4:44 PM EDT
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DAYTON (WXIX) - The trial of the woman accused of causing a 2019 St. Patrick’s Day crash that killed three people from the same family is now in the judge’s hands.

On Thursday, closing arguments were presented after the prosecution called one final witness as a rebuttal to the medical expert Abby Michaels’ defense called the day before.

FOX19 NOW’s Ken Brown was in the courtroom and has more on what happened.

Abby Michaels was behind the wheel of a Kia Forte that hit and killed the Thompson family in their vehicle on I-75 near Dayton, according to police.

Day 3 in Court

On the third day of Abby Michaels’ trial, her defense team called her doctor to the stand.

The defense says Michaels had a psychogenic nonepileptic seizure which they believe led to involuntary movement of her body which caused the 2019 St. Patrick’s Day crash that killed three members of the Thompson family.

Day 2 in Court

The prosecution presented more evidence Tuesday in a woman’s murder trial in the wrong-way Interstate 75 crash that killed a Mason family of three on St. Patrick’s Day 2019.

Abby Michaels, 25, waived her right to a jury trial so Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Dankof will decide the case.

On the second day of her trial, two people took the stand for the prosecution: Warren County Coroner Dr. Russell Uptegrove and Moraine Police Sgt. John Howard.

The coroner says Timmy Thompson, 51, Karen Thompson, 50, and 10-year-old Tessa Thompson all died from blunt force trauma they suffered in the head-on crash with Michaels.

It was on Monday that the prosecution outlined their plan to prove Michaels intentionally drove the wrong way on the highway before the crash that killed three members of the Thompson family.

With Sgt. Howard on the stand Tuesday, the prosecution presented the event data recorder (EDR), or “black box,” from the vehicles involved in the 2019 crash.

The EDR in the Thompson’s and Michaels’ vehicles each record five seconds of data before a crash: speed, what degree the wheel was turned in one direction or the other, and whether or not the brake was engaged.

The data presented in court Tuesday shows five seconds before the crash, the wheel in Michaels’ car was turned to the left, at most 45 degrees, four seconds before the crash.

The wheel then turned 50 degrees to the right and 1.5 seconds before the crash, the car is driving straight, prosecutors explained.

The defense says a medical condition that Michaels has led to a seizure which in turn caused the 2019 crash.

They tried to poke holes in the data presented Tuesday by the prosecution by identifying outside factors that could cause a steering wheel to turn without the help of Michaels.

The defense brought up factors like tire wear and a change in terrain that could cause the wheel to shift.

Defense Attorney Tony Cicero: Data points from an EDR do not tell us anything whatsoever as to what was going on in that vehicle with the operator of that vehicle.

Sgt. Howard: That is true.

Day 1 of trial & background

The judge granted a motion on June 2 dismissing four charges against her: three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and one for OVI.

Michaels still faces multiple charges including three counts of murder.

The judge also ruled back in 2021 to suppress evidence of her blood drawn after the crash. The blood used to determine her blood-alcohol level was not properly refrigerated, court records show. That led to fermentation of the blood, which elevated the BAC.

The judge also raised issues over the procedure a hospital nurse used for drawing the blood.

The prosecution’s opening statements outlined their plan to prove Michaels intentionally drove the wrong way on the highway before the crash that killed three members of the Thompson family.

  • Timmy Thompson - 51
  • Karen Thompson - 50
  • Tessa Thompson - 10

Michaels was behind the wheel of a 2015 Kia Forte that hit and killed the Thompson family in their Toyota Camry on I-75 near Dayton late Sunday, March 17, 2019, according to Moraine police.

“Ms. Michaels knowingly drove her vehicle into oncoming traffic to cause serious physical harm,” the prosecutor said in court Monday. “That deadly weapon and that serious physical harm caused the death, deaths of the Thompson family.”

Tessa was a fourth-grader at St. Susanna School in Mason.

Her mother was a beloved, veteran instructor for Cincinnati Public Schools.

PREVIOUS | $3M bond for driver charged in wrong-way crash that killed Mason family

Timmy Thompson, 51, Karen Thompson, 50, and Tessa Thompson, 10, died in March when their car...
Timmy Thompson, 51, Karen Thompson, 50, and Tessa Thompson, 10, died in March when their car was hit in a wrong-way crash on I-75 near Dayton.

Michaels’ husband Kyle Pastorelle, who filed for divorce two days before the crash, said she called him around 8 p.m. that night asking to come over, police records show.

He told her no because she’d been drinking and she told him, “I’m gonna kill myself,” the report states.

She called him back and said, “I’m going to drive backward on 75,” and then did that minutes later, according to the report.

RELATED | Mason family of 3 killed in wrong-way I-75 crash near Dayton

The defense says a medical condition that Michaels has led to a seizure which in turn caused the 2019 crash.

“She didn’t murder anybody,” argued Defense attorney Jay Adams. “She suffered from a medical condition, and because that has not been the narrative, that sounds shocking to people.

Evidence presented in court shows Michaels at Ron’s Pizza in the Dayton area on March 17, 2019.

She was with a small group of people that night and witnesses say her date that night had too much to drink and was asked to leave the bar.

Surveillance video played in court shows Michaels leaving with her group at 7:46 p.m. Eight minutes later, she called her ex-husband, according to his phone records.

“I was pretty adamant, you know, it’s not - we’re not doing this, it’s not going to happen, and that’s when she told me that she was driving at the time and that’s when she told me that she was going to drive backward on 75,” Pastorelle explained inside the courtroom.

Two minutes later, Michaels tried to call her ex-husband again but he didn’t answer, the prosecution says evidence shows.

At 8 p.m., Pastorelle got a text saying, “Goodbye, I love you, I’m dying now,” according to the prosecution’s evidence.

A Moraine Police report says the crash happened 10 minutes later at 8:10 p.m.

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