ALEXANDRIA — The state rested its case Tuesday afternoon against a Texas man alleged to be responsible for another man's September death on Interstate 90.
The bulk of Tuesday's testimony at the Hanson County Courthouse was given by Tori Gordon, who investigated and was the first South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper at the scene of the Sept. 6 crash east of Alexandria where 52-year-old Johnnie Hines was pronounced dead shortly after 12 p.m.
Gordon arrested 32-year-old Jason Ingram, of Kempner, Texas, for second-degree manslaughter and reckless driving. Both the prosecution and defense have indicated during the trial, which began Monday, that a minivan driven by Hines collided with a hose trailer that was being pulled by a tractor driven by Ingram while both vehicles were westbound on Interstate 90.
Gordon said she had spoken with Ingram in her patrol vehicle at the scene of the crash and that he had told her about the company he worked for — Boehnke Waste Handling, which operates in Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa — and that he had been driving on the shoulder while on his way from Viborg to Wolsey for a job.
In October, Gordon recommended to Hanson County State's Attorney Jim Davies, who is prosecuting the case, that Ingram also be charged with operating an oversize vehicle without the proper permits and driving without a commercial driver's license.
Based on the vehicle's size and the fact that it was used in multiple states for contracted use between Ingram's employer and multiple farmers, it required a Class A CDL to operate, Gordon testified. When measured, she said, both the tractor and trailer were later found to be too wide to be driven without a permit.
"In South Dakota, we do have farm exemptions for commercial licenses," Gordon said. "To claim that exemption ... you have to be hauling your own product for your farm, or you have to be working for that farm. While speaking with Mr. Ingram, I determined that he was not working for a specific farm."
When asked by Davies to reference photos of the crash she had taken at the scene, Gordon said there was no visible slow-moving emblem on the back of the trailer and that there weren't holes or residue present to indicate that the triangular orange emblem may have been attached at one point.
Gordon said while she and Ingram spoke in her patrol vehicle, he indicated that he thought there were taillights on the trailer, but that he asked to speak to a lawyer when asked whether he had a slow-moving emblem.
When questioned by Ingram's attorney, Peter Wold, Gordon said at the time she arrested Ingram, she hadn't known how fast either vehicle was going or whether Hines was looking at the road when the crash occurred.
Gordon testified that she hadn't heard through her investigation or from emergency personnel who arrived at the scene before her about civilians staying at the scene of the crash and moving items in the van. LeNora Giles, who Gordon said she interviewed during her investigation, testified Monday that she and other civilians had stopped at the scene of the crash, removed a ladder from the back of the van and pushed back the broken seat that held Hines.
Both sides have stipulated that, based on a crash reconstruction done by another trooper on Sept. 11, Hines' vehicle was traveling 60 mph faster than Ingram's at the time of the crash.
While witnesses called by the state did not confirm how fast Ingram may have been traveling, Kevin Wieman, who runs Wieman Land and Auction Company in Marion, testified that the Versatile 305 tractor Ingram was driving has a top speed of 25 mph, though increasing RPM or putting tires larger than the standard inches could increase the tractor's speed.
Wieman said when he tried to turn on the tractor at the Department of Transportation in Mitchell, where vehicles were towed following the crash, there was no power, and he had no way of knowing what the tractor's RPM was on Sept. 6.
The jury was shown a video deposition of Special Agent Toby Russell of the Division of Criminal Investigation. Russell had used software to extract and analyze data from Hines' cell phone, including calls and texts sent and received and web searches performed on Sept. 6.
Russell testified that while 35 individual web addresses were logged in the Sept. 6 history of the Google Chrome app on Hines' phone, he was unable to determine at exactly what time any searches might have been made.
Also called to testify by the state were Stacy Ellwanger, deputy director of the state's public health lab, and Mike Peterson, a Highway Patrol sergeant responsible for the evidence locker in Mitchell. Ellwanger said tests of blood taken from Hines at the scene of the crash showed no detectable levels of alcohol, and Peterson confirmed that Gordon delivered Hines' cell phone to him and that it wasn't tampered with before he turned it over to Russell.
Following the jury's dismissal for the day, Wold moved for Ingram's acquittal, arguing that the state hadn't provided sufficient evidence for the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Ingram had been knowingly negligent and reckless and had caused Hines' death.
Judge Chris Giles denied the motion after prosecutor Mike Fink argued that the specific set of facts in Ingram's case are almost entirely different from those in a South Dakota Supreme Court case cited by Wold. Giles stated the tractor and trailer appeared to qualify as a commercially-operated vehicle.
The defense is scheduled to begin its case Wednesday morning.