Attorney for accused drunk driver in fatal crash presents case to jury

Wheeling (Source: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)
Wheeling (Source: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)
Putnam (left) and her best friend (Photo from friend)
Putnam (left) and her best friend (Photo from friend)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Defense attorneys for the man accused of driving drunk and hitting and killing a pedestrian are trying to convince jurors that the victim ran out onto the road.

Investigators say Gregory Wheeling was drunk, speeding, and driving erratically when he hit Kelli Putnam on South Boulevard on January 17, 2016. Wheeling is on trial for second-degree murder, aggravated felony death by vehicle, and DWI.

The defense crash reconstruction expert testified that he digitally recreated the crash, looked at the evidence and damage to Wheeling's Audi.

Tyler Black, a crash reconstruction expert and mechanical engineer, said his objectives were to find out what happened in the collision, any contributing factors, and if the crash was avoidable.

Black said he calculated the time between reaction and impact.

"One point four seconds prior to collision, Ms. Putnam stepped off the curb," Black said.

Black told jurors that Wheeling didn't have enough time to react. He said the only way to have avoided the collision was if the victim did not step out onto the road.

The defense told the jury there was a contributing factor to the crash.

"It does appear the sun played a role in the collision," Black testified.

Thursday morning, the defense called a witness who dialed 911 after the crash. Matthew Morgan told jurors he was working at Mattress Firm near the intersection where the fatal crash happened. He testified that he saw the impact and called 911.

Attorney George Laughrun played the 911 call for jurors. Morgan told the dispatcher that "this girl running across the street just got hit by a car."

When the prosecutor questioned Morgan, he said he wasn't standing at the window but he could still see outside. Morgan couldn't recall seeing the victim before she was hit.

Another witness testified that he was in the vehicle with Wheeling and other friends when the crash happened.

John Nouanthavysouk said they were at the Whiskey Warehouse watching the Panthers game. He testified he saw Wheeling "drink a beer and had a couple of shots."

Nouanthavysouk said the group left to drive to the light rail. Someone else drove Wheeling's vehicle but at a gas station, Wheeling took over the driving.

Nouanthavysouk told the jury as they drove on South Boulevard "we just heard a thud." He said he doesn't remember much because the vehicle's side airbag hit him.

He said that prior to the crash, he wasn't concerned about Wheeling being behind the wheel because he was a bartender and could tell if someone was impaired.

But, Nouanthavysouk admitted to prosecutors that he can't tell a person's blood alcohol content.

A nurse who was working in the emergency room the afternoon of the crash told jurors she examined Wheeling.

Amy Randolph told Attorney Laughrun that Wheeling didn't slur his speech. She testified that she didn't smell alcohol or see glassy eyes. Randolph said her examination showed "everything was normal" with Wheeling.


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