Jury views crash scene, autopsy photos in Curtis Harper trial

Jury views crash scene, autopsy photos in Curtis Harper trial

Posted:
Harper listens to testimony on Wednesday. Harper listens to testimony on Wednesday.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - It was another emotional day in court as testimony continued in the trial of the man accused of killing Chasity Thornell, Nelzon Soto and Thornell's unborn child while allegedly driving drunk last year.

More Knoxville police officers took the stand as the trial for Curtis Harper continued into Day 4.

The jury was shown the autopsy photos for all three victims as well as crash scene photos of the victims' bodies, causing family members to leave the courtroom in tears.

Sgt. Tracy Hunter took the stand first and described the scene of the crash.

"These red lines that extend from this point down to Mr. Soto and Ms. Thornell are drag marks that we saw on the roadway," Hunter told the jury while showing a scaled diagram of the crash scene.

Hunter said the distance from the approximate area of impact to Soto's body was 123 feet. Thornell's body was found 164.5 feet from the impact site.
 
She went through photos of evidence recovered from the scene including Thornell's flip flop, a cell phone and some car parts.

The photos again caused the victims' families to break down into tears. Soto's wife left the courtroom after seeing one particular image of her husband's dead body.

Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz then asked the jury to leave the courtroom temporarily because of the outbursts.

After they returned, much of the Soto family remained outside the courtroom.

Several of Thornell's family members also left the courtroom as the jury was shown photos of Thornell and her unborn baby's body.

The judge instructed jurors to be sure they were only considering the evidence in the case and to not let the families' reactions influence them.

KPD officer Greg Womac testified as an expert witness on crash investigations.

Womac testified that the suspect stopped the car after the crash after realizing something had been hit.

"The driver perceived something in front of him and drove around it," Womac said.

Thornell's mother left the courtroom as more images were shown. Harper, meanwhile, showed no emotion on his face.

Womac testified that Thornell was struck twice by the vehicle. He said she was thrown forward and then pulled by the vehicle.

Womac said police were led to Harper's vehicle after receiving a tip from a woman who said she was Harper's friend.

Under cross examination, Harper's attorney pointed out that Harper turned himself into police.

A forensic pathologist said that Soto's toxicology showed up negative but Thornell's toxicology report showed she had methamphetamine in her system.

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