Man accepts plea in fatality

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Center Point man pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges in connection with the June 2006 automobile crash that killed a Putnam County teen.

Michael William Knight, 21, was charged with causing death while operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, a Class C felony, and causing serious bodily injury while operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, a Class D felony.

Knight informed Superior Court Judge Robert Lowe and Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter that he, 20 at the time, had been at a graduation party with Elizabeth Wehrheim,19, Keanon Dickison, 19, and Nathan Archer, 24, where he had consumed alcohol and smoked some marijuana.

Around 3:15 a.m. on June 4, Knight was driving down County Road 1000 South near County Road 200 West, just west of Cloverdale, when his vehicle struck a concrete post and was launched into the trees.

Bookwalter told the BannerGraphic that they were able to retrieve the black box from Knight's car and found that he had been traveling 75 to 80-mph in a 45-mph zone.

Following the accident, Knight said he walked to the nearest home to report the accident. Knight later fled into the woods after hearing the sirens.

Law enforcement and fire personnel searched for Knight for three hours before he returned to the scene. Bookwalter said that Knight's blood alcohol level was tested at .068 percent, and after he had informed officers he had not had a drink between the time he had operated the vehicle and crashed it, they were able determine that his blood alcohol level before the accident was .14 percent.

Bookwalter also said that they were able to prove that Knight was driving the vehicle by performing a DNA test on the driver-side airbag.

Wehrheim sustained fatal injuries and was later pronounced dead at Methodist Hospital. Dickison and Archer were also transported for medical treatment for various injuries.

Knight is expected to pay restitution, but an amount was not available for the court due to Archer's extensive medical bills. According to Bookwalter, Archer spent 47 days in the hospital for broken bones.

Knight could face up to 11 years in prison. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, March 2 in the Putnam County Superior Court.

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