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Published: Friday, 8/3/2001

Jury acquits truck driver in fatal crash

ADRIAN - A Lenawee County jury needed only 12 minutes yesterday to determine that a trucker was not guilty on charges stemming from a traffic accident that killed a Blissfield couple last year.

Dean Watkins, 36, was found not guilty on two counts each of negligent homicide and manslaughter with a motor vehicle. He was on trial for his involvement in a July 14, 2000, accident in Woodstock Township that killed Reed and Ester Wotring, both 77.

Mr. Watkins and Daniel Bylsma, 27, of Byron Center, Mich., were driving tractor-trailers in opposite directions on U.S. 223 when Mr. Wotring began slowing his vehicle to make a left turn onto Devils Lake Highway. Bylsma could not stop his eastbound truck and hit the Wotrings' vehicle, forcing it into Mr. Watkins' path.

Lenawee County prosecutors had charged both men with driving too fast and having faulty brakes. Bylsma pleaded guilty in February to two counts of negligent homicide and was sentenced to six months in jail and five years of probation.

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