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Archive for Friday, June 25, 1999

VEHICULAR-HOMICIDE TRIAL GETS UNDER WAY

June 25, 1999

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A bench trial began Thursday in a vehicular homicide case involving two friends, one of whom died after an accident on Kansas Highway 10.

A Shawnee man accused of vehicular homicide caused the death of a friend last August, a Douglas County prosecutor said Thursday.

Douglas County District Judge Robert Fairchild heard arguments in the bench trial of Landon McKinnis, who allegedly blacked out Aug. 4 while driving westbound on Kansas Highway 10.

Witnesses said that when McKinnis blacked out, he lost control of the sport utility vehicle he was driving. A passenger in the vehicle grabbed the steering wheel and overcompensated, and the SUV rolled.

McKinnis' friend Larry Williams, a 23-year-old Overland Park resident, died in the crash.

A Douglas County Sheriff's Department deputy testified that McKinnis had admitted at the scene that he had consumed two beers, and Williams' brother, also a passenger, said McKinnis had been smoking marijuana before the accident.

Toxicology tests showed McKinnis' blood-alcohol level was below the legal limit. Authorities did not test the 21-year-old for drugs.

The speed limit where the accident occurred was 65 mph. Officials say McKinnis was speeding when he lost control.

The accident occurred at milepost 5 on K-10, near the Knights of Columbus hall.

"The defendant was driving the vehicle, and his actions were the direct cause of Mr. Williams' death," Douglas County Assistant Dist. Atty. Jerry Little said. "He was driving in a manner which created danger."

Williams, who was not wearing a seat belt, died three days after the accident at an Overland Park hospital. Results from an autopsy stated that he died from blunt head trauma.

Defense attorney David Berkowitz asked Dr. Michael Handler if Williams would have sustained injuries if he had been wearing restraints. Handler replied, "There is a high likelihood he would have sustained some injuries but likely not the severe head trauma he experienced."

At Berkowitz's request, Fairchild dismissed a second charge against McKinnis for not having insurance at the time of the accident and took arguments under advisement.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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