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February 13, 2013

Trial begins for former Galveston clerk

Christine Lewis accused of hit and run

Cass County Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Gaumer began the trial of former Galveston Clerk Christine Lewis Tuesday by presenting the jury with a question.

“Did you just hit that boy?” Gaumer asked.

Gaumer said she was referencing the question a witness had asked Lewis on Sept. 2, 2011, when she is accused of hitting 21-year-old Trey McCulley. While Gaumer argued that Lewis had left the scene after hitting McCulley and breaking his leg, Kelly Leeman, Lewis’s attorney, questioned the location of the injury and said Lewis did not see any damage on her car.

Lewis is accused of hitting McCulley as he was crossing Ind. 218 near Lewis-Cass High School. The collision reportedly broke the femur in his left leg.

She faces a charge of failure to stop after an accident resulting in serious bodily injury, a class D felony.

Through jury selection and the beginning of the case, Lewis did not show outward signs of emotion. Her family sat behind her in the gallery during Tuesday’s proceedings in Cass Superior I court.

In her opening arguments, Gaumer outlined testimony that she said would be provided by a witness who had been behind Lewis as she was driving towards Lewis-Cass High School. She reportedly saw a collision between a person and the car.  

“She’ll tell you she saw a figure, and it looked like it had been diving off the road,” Gaumer said.

Gaumer said the witness then drove to the school behind Lewis because they were both picking up students after a football game, and reportedly saw her get out of her car to look for damage. The witness then reportedly asked Lewis if she had hit the boy, but did not receive an answer. Gaumer said the witness knew who Lewis was before the incident.

Though Leeman agreed with some points of the narrative, he questioned how much the witness could have seen.

“As you might guess, we have a little different view of what happened,” Leeman said.

Leeman said though the witness was traveling behind Lewis, she only saw the figure out her passenger side window, meaning that Lewis may not have been able to see the figure. He also said that when Lewis got out of the car to look for damage on the front, she did not see any because the damage was on the right side of the car.

He also questioned the fact that McCulley’s left femur was broken, though his right side would have been facing Lewis’s car as he crossed the road.

“We don’t know how that leg got broken,” Leeman said.

The first witness to take the stand, Kelly Ronk of Walton, described her son, Trey McCulley, as a “very sweet boy” who has autism, but still functions at high levels.

“He’s not the autistic child you would think of,” Ronk said.

She said the night of Sept. 2, 2011 had been the first time she had let him walk home from a football game by himself.

“I have to let him do things and try,” Ronk said.

She emotionally described how he had called her after the game ended to tell her he was coming home, and then tearfully called her a few minutes later from a ditch near their house saying “he thought his leg was broken.” Ronk said because autistic children don’t often express the amount of pain they’re in, she knew his tears meant that he was in serious pain.

After undergoing operations at St. Vincents Hospital in Indianapolis, Ronk said her son recovered, but still bears signs of the injury.

“He limps worse and he kind of swings his leg out,” Ronk said.

Gaumer said she would also provide witnesses who would testify that the first call from the Lewis’s about the incident was to the insurance company the next morning, and that the company then called the police.

Leeman countered that his client waited to call because the side damage was not apparent until the morning.

Her case will be decided by a six-person jury, because she faces a class D felony, made up of five women and one man, as well as a man acting as an alternate.

Lewis faces a possible penalty of six months to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for the class D felony.

Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or caitlin.huston@pharostribune.com.

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