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Driver won't be charged for 2022 crash on US 29 that killed sister

Kate Kane, a master police officer with the Albemarle County Police Department, was called to the scene of a catastrophic car crash late on Halloween afternoon in 2022. There, she filed a reckless driving charge against the driver. But after a rear-seat passenger, the driver’s sister, died nine days later, Kane stepped up her research.

"I did preliminary tire tread-depth measurements at the scene and found that the tread depth may have been unsatisfactory, per VA Code," she wrote in papers accompanying a search warrant.

The driver was 72-year-old Alfred T.B. Wood of Fort Washington, Maryland. The victim, who died Nov. 9, 2022, was his sister, Jeraldine Marie Wood, who was 76 at the time of her death. They were heading north on U.S. 29 at North Garden Lane when the crash occurred.

"Weather conditions were steady rain with wet pavement," Kane wrote. "Based on my initial investigation, the driver of a 2005 Mercedes-Benz sedan appeared to have lost control and collided with a tractor-trailer and then struck a guardrail."

By the time Kane sought her search warrant, the Mercedes was stored in a local towing company’s lot. Kane wanted to check the car’s turn signal knob position, its radio volume and seatbelt condition as well as conduct further tests on the tires, including checking their air pressure. Kane also sought maintenance records that might be stored in the vehicle to see if there was evidence of a mechanical condition that could have precipitated the crash.

What, if anything, she found never made it to court. On Oct. 17, the prosecutor announced that he was dropping the case.

"In thinking about this decision today, judge, I was looking at the American Bar Association’s justice standards," said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond Szwabowski in Albemarle County General District Court.

The prosecutor said that continuing the case would not be in the interests of justice and that dropping it was a decision made in consultation with relatives of the deceased woman.

"This has been a very difficult situation for that family," said Szwabowski.

Next, defense attorney Jonathan Tarris spoke up to say there was a witness prepared to testify that the crash was triggered by the nearby tractor-trailer. Tarris said the witness would say the truck "sucked in" the Mercedes and made it hydroplane.

"It was called in as a hit-and-run," said Tarris, noting that the tractor-trailer drove about quarter of a mile before stopping.

"That’s one piece of a complicated mosaic of reasons," replied Szwabowski for his motion not to prosecute.

Judge Matthew Quatrara spoke next.

"The court’s going to grant the motion," Quatrara said, "but the court’s not going to minimize the loss."

Veteran Charlottesville attorney Scott Goodman said that it doesn’t seem like a convictable case.

"It sounds like there was nothing there to support reckless driving," Goodman told The Daily Progress. "Sometimes that’s what these things are, just unfortunate accidents."

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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