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Lawyer: Trooper was too close to trailer in fatal crash

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac – A Michigan State trooper who died in August 2015 after being dragged down Interstate 75 beneath a trailer likely was following too close behind on his motorcycle to avoid the deadly crash, a defense attorney told an Oakland Circuit Court jury Monday.

Charles R. Warren Jr., 69, of Waterford Township is charged with reckless driving causing death and failure to stop at the scene of an accident causing death in connection to the Aug. 28, 2015, death of Trooper Chad Wolf, 38, of Fenton.

Wolf was dragged three miles under a trailer Warren was pulling along Interstate 75 in Springfield Township. He died about 10 hours later in an area hospital.

Warren, who has been free on $10,000 bond, could face up to 15 years in prison on either charge, both felonies.

“We know a horrific tragedy resulted,” Warren’s attorney Neil Rockind told the jury in his opening statement Monday. “... Wolf did not give himself enough time or space to avoid the accident. It is his proximity to the trailer as it was turning that caused this ...”

Rockind has said Warren was saddened by Wolf’s death but never realized there had been a collision between the trooper’s motorcycle and his trailer in the early morning darkness.

Rockind said investigators have determined that Warren’s Volkswagen Jetta, the trailer he was pulling and Wolf’s motorcycle were all in the right-hand lane of Dixie Highway at the time of the crash.

He noted investigators have been unable to report whether any lights were on Wolf’s motorcycle, how fast the state trooper was traveling and how close he was to the trailer when it turned right off of Dixie Highway onto the I-75 ramp.

“I have no interest in rehashing this or anything to disparage Mr. Wolf,” Rockind stressed. “But this was an accident.”

Assistant prosecuting attorney David Hutson has said that when Warren chose that morning to illegally pull a trailer not equipped with working lights he was driving recklessly.

“This was a tragedy,” Hutson said. “But evidence will show ... it came at his (Warren’s) fault and of serious choices.”

Among them, Hutson said, was Warren’s decision not to hook up lights on the trailer and then making a hard turn onto the I-75 ramp as he was passing it.

Wolf slammed into the rear right side of the trailer, causing him to slide left and his uniform got caught on the trailer, Hutson said.

Witnesses will testify that the trailer was setting off sparks as it traveled three miles before “storming into” a rest area where Warren was found trying to change a damaged wheel, the prosecutor said.

Rockind asked jurors not to “jump to any conclusions” until they have heard all of the evidence. The resulting investigation includes a video of a shaken Warren in a patrol car trying to piece together what happened and even at one point saying: “I killed that man. You can kill me.”

The trial is being supervised by Judge Denise Langford Morris.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319