published Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Boating death trial date moved

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman moved a hearing date for a 39-year-old tugboat operator charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of two fishermen.

Warren Luetke's charges of homicide and related reckless operation of a boat and failing to render assistance will return to Steelman's court Sept. 8.

On June 19, 2010, Luetke was piloting the Bearcat, owned by Serodino Inc. The company is being sued in federal civil court by family of the deceased -- Soddy-Daisy native Richard Wilkey, 52, and Elizabethton, Tenn., resident Tim Spidle, 45, and the surviving fisherman David "Chris" Wilkey.

A Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency investigation showed the Bearcat struck the fishing boat. Chris Wilkey told the Chattanooga Times Free Press he "might have smoked a joint the night before" but hadn't had any drugs or alcohol the day of the crash.

Richard Wilkey's blood-alcohol content was 0.269, Spidle's blood showed traces of marijuana and a 0.20 alcohol level. The legal limit is 0.08.

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about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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