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Trial begins in vehicle homicide

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Posted: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 12:00 am

***Editor’s note: Herchel Huff is presumed innocent until he has been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.***

LEXINGTON – Herchel Huff, the 36-year-old Furnas County resident, appeared in court Tuesday morning with his team of defense attorneys to face a jury of his peers.

Twelve carefully selected men and women, whose job it is to determine if Huff was intoxicated when he allegedly struck and killed 28-year-old teacher Kasey Warner as she was jogging with her 3-year-old daughter on a country road, near Arapahoe on Oct. 3, 2007. 

Warner pushed her daughter out of the way at the last second. 

The tot survived, but Warner did not.  

Motor vehicle homicide is a class II felony with a penalty of up to 50 years in prison. Huff has also been charged with tampering with a witness and refusal to submit to a chemical test. 

Tampering with a witness is a class IV felony with a penalty of up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. Refusing to submit to a chemical test is a class IIIA felony with a penalty of up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.

Huff has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

Assistant Attorney General Mike Guinan and Furnas County Attorney Tom Patterson are handling the case on behalf of the State of Nebraska while Richard Calkins and Charles Brewster are on the defense team.

Tuesday was spent in jury selection and opening statements of both the prosecution and the defense.

In the state’s opening argument, prosecutors allege that Huff had been in a bar in Oxford drinking and playing pool the afternoon of Oct. 3, 2007.

At 6:30 p.m., the State also alleges that Huff got into his car, a bluish-green Camaro and drove while intoxicated, taking country roads from Oxford back to where he was living in Holbrook.

The State contends that at about 7 or 7:15 p.m., Huff struck Warner while she was jogging along one of those country roads. The State alleges that Huff had been traveling somewhere between 72 and 84 miles per hour before he finally slammed on the brakes, striking Warner and rolling his car over on her, dragging her body along the ground.

According to the prosecution, when law enforcement sent Huff to Cambridge Hospital for a blood-alcohol test, he refused.

After the State gave their version of the events of Oct. 3, the defense painted their own picture of the events of that day.

“The State has given you their version of the fact,” Calkins began. “That what it is – -their version.”

“We agree they were in an accident and that it was a tragedy,” Calkins continued. “The issue is whether Mr. Huff was under the influence.”

Calkins told the jury that no field sobriety tests had been performed at the scene, no interviews. In fact, Calkins said, Huff was taken over to accident responders to be checked out for injuries and wasn’t questioned at all.

The defense attorney advised the jury that an officer arrived on the scene to take Huff to the hospital for alcohol testing, but did not explain who he was or why he was being tested. In fact, Calkins stated, the officer did not even know who the driver of the vehicle involved was.

“Mr. Huff was distraught, crying and throwing up,” Calkins said. “Ryan Markwardt was in the same state. He was in the ditch in a fetal position.”

Markwardt was called to the witness stand as the State’s first witness.

In his testimony, Markwardt said that Huff had been drinking “as much, if not more” than he was that afternoon.

Markwardt voluntarily took the blood-alcohol test after the accident. It was .13, nearly twice the legal limit.

Allegedly Huff had told Markwardt and a co-worker who had been at the bar that afternoon that “We we’re drinking slow and he was up on us.”

At press time, jury was on recess and the defense had not yet cross-examined Markwardt.

Huff’s trial is expected to last until Friday.

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  • anonymous posted at 9:06 am on Wed, Mar 10, 2010.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    It just so happens that I knew Mr. Huff when this tragedy occurred. To comment that he has no remorse is outrageous. I believe with all of my heart that he was torn apart by what happened and no one could ever punish him as much as he will for the rest of his life. That being said, I too, believe that Mr. Huff should be punished to the fullest extend of the law. His record DOES in fact speak for itself. And although there is nothing anyone can do to bring that wonderful woman back, her family at the very least deserves justice. I just hope everyone keeps in mind that Mr. Huff not only destroyed the family of his victim, he also destroyed his own. I don't know if he is still married but he did have a wife and children at the time of the crime and I'm sure they are suffering too. Commenters, please try to be sensitive for the sake of both grieving families.

  • anonymous posted at 6:23 am on Wed, Mar 10, 2010.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    The article is missing the most disgusting part...the number of times Mr. Huff has been charged with drinking and driving prior to taking the life of one hero, whose quick actions saved the life of her little girl. No lesson learned before, no remorse now--Hope he won't have the chance to take so much away from anyone else.

  • anonymous posted at 5:04 am on Wed, Mar 10, 2010.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I hope this guy spends the rest of his life behind bars. 1. Using the term accident, whether intoxicated or not, is stupid. There was obviously some neglegence here that killed another person. 2. Sounds like he was intoxicated. Why else would you refuse a chemical test? If I weren't drunk, I'd request one be taken to lessen the crime.