Towboat trial continues in Hamilton County Criminal Court

Towboat trial continues in Hamilton County Criminal Court

May 15th, 2014 by Todd South in Local Regional News

Defense attorney Sam Hudson, right, points to defendant Charles Warren Luetke as he makes his opening statement Tuesday at the City-County Courts Building.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Experts from the medical examiner's office and state and local investigators testified Wednesday in the second day of the trial for a local towboat captain charged in the 2010 deaths of two fishermen.

Charles Warren Luetke, 42, faces two charges of criminally negligent homicide in the deaths of Richard Wilkey, 52, of Soddy-Daisy, and Tim Spidle, 45, of Elizabethton, Tenn.

Wilkey and Spidle were passengers in a 17-foot boat driven by Wilkey's nephew, David "Chris" Wilkey. The three were fishing when a towboat piloted by Luetke and pushing nine barges smashed the smaller vessel on June 19, 2010.

Luetke also has been charged with reckless operation of a boat and failure to render assistance. If convicted, he would face one to six years in prison.

Dr. James Metcalf, the Hamilton County medical examiner, testified that tests showed Richard Wilkey's blood-alcohol level was 0.269 and Spidle's was 0.20. The legal limit for driving is 0.08.

Spidle and David Wilkey also had traces of THC, the active chemical component of marijuana, in their systems.

The trial resumes today in Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom.