Jurors visit South End street where woman was fatally struck after Panthers game

Putnam (left) and her best friend (Photo from friend)
Putnam (left) and her best friend (Photo from friend)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Jurors in the trial of the crash that killed 28-year-old Kelli Putnam last January left the courtroom Tuesday afternoon to visit the site of the deadly crash scene on South Boulevard.

Putnam was at a Panthers playoff game on the afternoon of Jan. 17, 2016. Police say sometime later she was walking on South Boulevard when she was hit by a driver and killed.

Investigators say Gregory Wheeling was drunk, speeding and driving erratically when he allegedly fatally struck Putnam. Wheeling's defense says Putnam reportedly darted out onto the road.

Wheeling has been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated felony death by vehicle and driving while impaired.

Defense Attorney George Laughrun objected to the jury view. Laughrun said traffic conditions at the road are not the same as they were on that January afternoon.

Prosecutors say they want jurors to get a feel for the road and understand what South Boulevard would have looked like at the time of the deadly wreck.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police closed South Boulevard between Iverson Way and Ideal Way. Jurors spent about 45 minutes observing the area.

Jurors heard from crash investigators and crime scene investigators Tuesday morning in court.

The investigator who questioned Wheeling after the crash told jurors that Wheeling's words were "slightly slurred" and that he "could smell an odor of alcohol."

Detective Nathan Crum testified that he smelled the odor of alcohol as he approached Wheeling, who was standing next to his wrecked Audi following the wreck. Crum said he also smelled alcohol when he took Wheeling away from the vehicle.

Crum told jurors that Wheeling was chewing gum and so he asked him to spit out.

Jurors have been told that both the prosecution and defense agree that the testing of the defendant's and the victim's blood were done properly and the chain of custody of the evidence was proper.

The judge read jurors the stipulation that stated Wheeling's blood alcohol content was .13. The judge said the Putnam's blood alcohol content was .20.

The jury also heard that Wheeling had been previously placed on a driving restriction before the fatal crash because he had a prior DWI charge.

According to information that Detective Crum read, Wheeling had a .04 alcohol restriction at the time of the crash.

A crime scene investigator testified that when she arrived on scene,  Putnam's body was in the road. Putnam's legs were bent and there was a trail of blood, according to the investigator.

"She was lying on the roadway to the right of a Taco Bell driveway and her feet were directed towards the driveway and her head was directed towards the rest of the roadway," the investigator said. "Her left leg was bent at the knee. Her right leg was resting over her left foot. Her right arm was kinda pushed away from her body and her left arm was lying at her side with left hand under her."

Prosecutors showed jurors photos from the scene including Putnam, Wheeling's car into a telephone pole, the vehicle's damaged windshield, gloves and boots that were separated from the victim. The investigator then described what was in each photo.

Another investigator said he collected a strand of hair from the windshield of Wheeling's vehicle.

"Within the cracks caused by the impact, there was a strand of hair stuck inside the cracks" he said.

Jurors will be back Wednesday morning to hear more testimony.


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