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Published: 6/26/2007

Expert testifies that brakes on car in fatal crash worked

BY BENJAMIN ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE The attorney for the former Bedford school board member on trial for contributing to the death of one high school student and the serious injury of another, this morning questioned the foundations of science.

Randy Krell's attorney, William Godfroy, grilled the prosecution's expert brake specialist on the certainty of his claim that the brakes of the teenagers' car were working at the time of the fatal car crash last year.

Mr. Krell, who served three terms on Bedford's school board, is charged with chasing a car full of teenagers for miles at speeds up to 85 mph after one of them threw a plastic water bottle at his car.

The teenagers have testified to the fact that Austin Oberle, then 17, started driving their car faster because they were being chased.

'People were saying, He's catching up to us! Go!'' Ashley Roth, 18, this morning testified to in Monroe County Circuit Court.

The chase on June 15, 2006, ended when the car driven by Oberle blew through a stop sign and hit a tree off the west side of Whiteford Center Road.

Carl Zeigler, another of the passengers, and Miss Roth have testified that Oberle hit the brakes, but that the car did not slow down fully and then slid forward into the tree.

Oberle, who yesterday pleaded guilty to two felony charges related to the accident, is expected to take the stand later today or tomorrow.

The crash killed Charlie Fackelman, 17, of Toledo, and severely injured Stevie Beale, now 18, of Bedford.

Mr. Krell is charged with vehicular manslaughter and felonious driving, charges that could carry up to 15 years in prison.

Alexander Zhukov, who has doctoral degrees in automotive engineering and motor vehicle and highway safety, this morning said the silver 1998 Pontiac Bonneville driven by Oberle could have stopped at the Whiford Center stop sign.

'There was nothing wrong with the brake system or steering system that could have led to failure to stop or slow down the vehicle in the crash that we are discussing here today,' Mr. Zhukov said.

If the brakes had failed, it could make Mr. Krell less responsible for the accident.

Mr. Godfroy wondered how Mr. Zhukov could determine the brakes were in good shape without physically testing them. Mr. Zhukov said the car was too damaged to test the brakes but that he examined all of the car's brake mechanisms instead.

'If I give you a light bulb and you don't put it in the socket, there is no way for you to know for sure that that light bulb is going to work, is there?' Mr. Godroy asked him during his cross-examination.

'Well, if I look at the light bulb's filament and it is in working order, then I can assume that it will work,' Mr. Zhukov responded.

'But you aren't certain,' Mr. Godfroy shot back.

'Well, I am 99.99 percent certain,' Mr. Zhukov said.

'But you are not certain,' Mr. Godfroy insisted.

'Well, you are never 100 percent certain,' Mr. Zhukov concluded.

Mr. Godfroy's homage to science was not the only blow he dealt this morning.

On his cross-examination of Miss Beale, she admitted to seeing a candy-apple red Mustang instead of the darker colored car similar to Mr. Krell's black Chrysler 300 M that other witnesses have and likely will testify to seeing.

Miss Roth said that she remembers the exchange that happened after Charlie Fackelman threw the water bottle.

'Charlie said, Dude, I just messed up a Mustang,'' Ashley recalled.

'And then Austin said, No way that was a Mustang. I'm pretty sure that was a Chrysler,'' she said.

Witnesses will continue to take the stand this afternoon and the trial is expected to last through tomorrow.

Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch at: babloch@theblade.com 419-724-6168.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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