MONROE - A former Bedford school board member on trial in Monroe County Circuit Court for vehicular manslaughter and felonious driving testified yesterday that he did not chase a group of teenagers in a car and did not contribute to the crash last year that killed one of them.
Randy Krell, 52, said he was driving with his dog east on Sterns Road on his way to a restaurant on Alexis Road in Toledo when an object bounced off his car windshield. At the time, he said, he thought it was a beer can.
"It looked silver, metallicky in color. The liquid looked foamy and didn't appear to be water," Mr. Krell testified.
He is charged with chasing a car full of teenagers through Bedford Township at speeds up to 85 mph after one of them hit his car with a plastic water bottle.
If convicted, Mr. Krell could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Witnesses have testified that the Whitmer High School students in the car threw two bottles, each at a different car.
A Gatorade bottle was thrown by Carl Ziegler, then 17, and hit a white sport utility vehicle that did not turn around on Secor Road, according to witness testimony.
The water bottle was thrown by 17-year-old Charlie Fackelman, witnesses said.
The prosecution, which rested its case yesterday, contends that Mr. Krell's black Chrysler 300M was hit by the water bottle while on Sterns, and that Mr. Krell made a U-turn and chased the teenagers.
The June 15, 2006, chase ended when the car driven by Austin Oberle ran a stop sign and hit a tree off the west side of Whiteford Center Road.
The crash killed young Fackelman, of Toledo, and severely injured Stevie Beale, who is now 18, of Bedford Township.
On Monday, Oberle pleaded guilty to felonious driving and negligent homicide.
He had been charged with vehicular manslaughter and felonious driving. Conviction on those charges carries a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Because of his plea, he could be sentenced to up to two years in prison.
Mr. Krell, who has pleaded not guilty, testified yesterday afternoon that he was neither angry nor upset after the object hit his car.
But he said he saw out of his side-view mirror that the taillights on the car from which the bottle was thrown were similar to those on a car owned by one of his neighbor's daughters.
"I wasn't concerned about the vehicle, but basically, what I did was make a conscious decision to go drive by the house where the father of the girl lived to talk with him," he testified.
But he said when he drove past his neighbor's house on Hazel Drive in Lambertville, the neighbor was not home.
Mr. Krell said because his night had already been sidetracked, he decided to forgo his trip to the restaurant and instead chose to drive down Clegg Road.
"My dog likes riding with the window down, so I decided to let the dog stick her head out the window and give her a ride around the block," he said.
The three-term Bedford school board member said while driving, he saw Oberle's car, which was now smashed against a tree.
He said he began driving down Clegg - "I probably was not even going the speed limit" - stopped completely at the Alder Road stop sign, then came across the accident at the Whiteford Center intersection.
Oberle testified yesterday that he was the first one out the car after the crash, and the first thing he noticed was Mr. Krell standing by the black Chrysler, the same car most of the teenagers in the car and witnesses on Clegg identified as the car chasing them.
"I got out of the car, and the first thing I saw was that car right there," Oberle said, pointing at a picture of Mr. Krell's car in the courtroom.
Oberle said he approached Mr. Krell and talked with him.
Oberle said that Mr. Krell asked if everyone was all right and he responded, "No, everyone is not all right."
Two other witnesses, who testified to arriving at the scene about five minutes after the crash, said Mr. Krell was there when they arrived.
Ryan L. Ciacelli said he left his former girlfriend's house on Clegg only minutes after two cars zipped past.
Mr. Ciacelli said that when he arrived at Whiteford Center, he saw Mr. Krell's car stopped at the stop sign and pointed in the direction of the crashed vehicle.
Whiteford Township volunteer Firefighter Jason Swearingen said he heard the crash from his home on Whiteford Center and immediately drove to the crash site.
Mr. Krell was talking on his cell phone with a 911 operator when Mr. Swearingen arrived.
Today, the jury today is expected to hear closing arguments, after which it is expected to begin its deliberations.
Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch
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