Jeremy Lane reenters the courtroom after a short recess Tuesday. The grand jury trial of Lanes, who is accused of vehicular homicide in the 2009 death of Susan Wood, a Unum employee, began Tuesday afternoon with opening statements and the testimonies of the first witnesses for the state.Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
A 26-year-old man admitted in Hamilton County Criminal Court Tuesday that he left the scene of a crash that killed a woman in 2009 and lied to police about the incident, but he denied being intoxicated at the time.
Jeremy Allen Lane pleaded guilty to two of the four counts against him in the opening minutes of his trial before Criminal Court Judge Don Poole.
A jury will decide whether Lane is guilty of the remaining charges — DUI and vehicular homicide. His trial will continue at 9:30 a.m. today.
Police arrested Lane on Dec. 23, 2009, after Susan Wood, a 42-year-old mother of two, was struck while walking to work at Unum. She died later that day.
Lane was arrested a few hours after she was hit.
Police said that, at the time of the crash, which took place at the intersection Walnut and Fourth streets, Lane was driving home from his job as a cook at the Chattanooga Billiard Club following a four-hour after-hours party in which fellow employees were drinking alcohol.
On Tuesday, the prosecution called witnesses who either saw the car strike Wood or the immediate aftermath. One described how Wood flew up on the car, over the hood and hit the pavement. Another witness said the impact had “knocked her shoes off.”
Photographs of the scene showed shattered pieces of glass and plastic on the road.
James Metcalfe, a forensic pathologist for the Hamilton County Medical Examiner Office, detailed damage to Wood’s body discovered during the autopsy. Her injuries included a dislocated right ankle and left knee and broken ribs, vertebrae and pelvis. Most of Wood’s injuries were on the right side of her body, he said.
Internal bleeding in her brain and abdomen plus tears to major veins, her liver, spleen and lungs contributed to Wood’s death, Metcalfe said.
Lane show little emotion during Tuesday’s hearing. Occasionally he leaned in to speak with his attorney, Dan Ripper.
During opening statements, District Attorney General Bill Cox said that, until Tuesday, Lane had never admitted to being involved in the crash.
“Today he’s doing everything in his power to limit his responsibility,” Cox said. “His defense is going to be he panicked.”
Lane consistently told police his car was stolen and that he wasn’t responsible for Wood’s death, Cox said.
“You’re going to hear evidence that he was drinking alcohol, that he was smoking marijuana,” Cox said.
Despite police reports that Lane “reeked of alcohol,” Ripper told the jury that “there was not one single police officer that did a field sobriety [test].”
Ripper said security camera footage at Lane’s workplace shows him with others at an after-hours party in the upstairs section of the billiard club. The footage shows Lane with one beer, but does not show him drinking it.
Court documents state that Lane left the Chattanooga Billiard Club about 7 a.m. on Dec. 23. As he drove toward the North Shore, documents say, he struck Wood and fled in his red Nissan 240SX sports car.
At 7:16 a.m., Hamilton County 911 dispatchers received a call of a carjacking from Lane.
Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston played the 15-minute 911 recording for the court or Tuesday. In the recording, Lane claims he was carjacked, tries to tell the dispatcher where he is and runs for more than five minutes to reach a gas station, where he waits for police.
At different points throughout the recording, Lane sobs about the carjacking but never mentions a wreck.
Matt Wood, husband of Susan Wood, said Tuesday that the family did not wish to comment until after the trial. In March 2010, records show, Matt Wood filed a civil lawsuit against Chattanooga Billiard Club in Hamilton County Circuit Court.
Court records show that the case was settled before reaching trial in November. Further details were not immediately available.
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 ...