Hayes aquitted three years after deaths

Just days after the three-year anniversary of the 1999 deaths of a Wilsonville mother and her daughter, a jury found Aprille Renee Hayes not guilty of double murder.

The jury deliberated for almost three hours before reaching its verdict.

The trial was the second for Hayes, 34. The first trial, in December of 2001, resulted in a hung jury, one of the only in the last decade.

Hayes was charged almost a year and a half ago on two counts of murder and one count of first-degree assault. In April 1999, the vehicle driven by Hayes met another driven by Kimberly Waruszewski in a head-on collision on Shelby County 47 between Chelsea and Columbiana.

Thirty-year-old Waruszewski and her 10-year-old daughter, Beth, were killed instantly. Blake Waruszewski, who was nine at the time of the accident, spent several weeks in the hospital as a result of injuries received in the crash.

State troopers called to the scene initially ruled the crash an accident. The case was reopened last year as a possible homicide after an investigator with the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office contacted the state police about pictures he took at the scene.

Prosecutors entered the pictures as evidence, including a photo of what appeared to be a bottle of liquor in Hayes’ back seat, in an attempt to prove Hayes was intoxicated. They allege Hayes was driving on the wrong side of the road when the crash occurred.

Mort Taylor, one of Hayes’ attorneys, said his client is pleased with the verdict.

&uot;It was a long ordeal for Aprille,&uot; Taylor said. &uot;She is ready to get on with her life.&uot; Birmingham attorneys Taylor and David Cromwell Johnson led Hayes’ defense.

&uot;It was a difficult case for everyone,&uot; Taylor said. &uot;The fact of the matter is the trooper, a homicide investigator on the scene spoke to eyewitnesses. He took measurements, photographed the scene, and went back the next day and took more photographs. Based on the evidence, he said she was not at fault. From that point, we felt the case was closed,&uot; Taylor said.

&uot;A year later a different trooper, who was not there, based on a couple of pictures, makes a different determination. The jury had a problem with that,&uot; he said.

The team of Shelby County assistant district attorneys tried twice to prove Hayes guilt, but was unsuccessful.

Bill Bostic, an assistant district attorney, said he felt the jury focused too much of their decision on the first trooper’s initial investigation.

&uot;(Trooper) Mike Mitchell jumped to a quick conclusion,&uot; Bostic said.

Bostic and the other assistant district attorneys on the case said the evidence showed Hayes had drank too much alcohol the day of the deaths. Bostic said the empty liquor bottle supported the state’s claim that Hayes was drinking at the time of the wreck.

&uot;Trooper Mitchell never even collected that,&uot; he said.

Bostic commended trooper Eddy Dodgen who did the follow up investigation but said the jury felt that Dodgen’s efforts were too late.

&uot;I have the utmost respect for the jury’s decision. I think they did their job. I can’t say I am happy with it but I respect it,&uot; Bostic said.

The Shelby County District Attorney’s office did try to enter into evidence at the original trial a blood alcohol sample taken from Hayes. The sample was taken at The University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital when she was treated for her injuries from the crash.

The sample was not allowed into evidence by Circuit Judge AL

Crowson because the &uot;chain of custody&uot; could not be proven since it was not documented by the hospital who touched the sample at every step of the process. An Alabama Law requires proof of the &uot;chain of custody.&uot;

Taylor said the jury heard the &uot;facts.&uot;

&uot;Of course there was no evidence of intoxication,&uot; Taylor said.

Angela Dunn, another assistant district attorney who worked on the case, said they knew they wouldn’t be able to establish the chain in a court of law.

She said although there is no law requiring hospitals to document the &uot;chain of custody&uot; she hopes that will someday change.

&uot;All we ask for is that they write who touched the blood when they do the lab test,&uot; Dunn said. &uot; The jury didn’t get to hear all of the evidence. It was not admissible and that is a fallacy of the law.&uot;

After hearing the verdict, Kaye Hendon, the mother of Kimberly Waruszewski and the grandmother of Beth Waruszewski, said she is on a mission to change the law .

&uot;I waited for three years to be able to tell my grandson that the girl (Hayes) was punished,&uot; Hendon said. &uot;He does not understand.&uot;

She called the case a &uot;calamity of errors from the very beginning.&uot;

She said she has already contacted Gov. Don Siegelman about changing the chain of custody law to force hospitals to record every step of the process.

&uot;This is not a closed door. How horribly everyone was touched by this case,&uot; Hendon said.

&uot;I am going to make sure something will come out of this and I am going to work to see that it doesn’t happen again.&uot;