CORONER'S INQUISITION, 1967-1980
Book 6
NEWBERRY COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA
Transcribed and contributed by Edith Greisser

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA, COUNTY OF NEWBERRY

AN INQUISITION, indented, taken at Newberry in the County and State aforesaid, the 14th day of February A. D., one thousand nine hundred and sixty-nine before GEORGE R. SUMMER, Coroner, upon view of the body of Lu­cille Miller then and there being dead by the oaths of Virgil C. Bouk­night, Wyatt L. Moates, Heyward Mills, Lin Slaton, Marvin C. Eaves and Carroll Bouknight, being a lawful jury of inquest who being charged and sworn to inquire, for the State of South Carolina where and by what means the said Lucile Miller came to her death, upon their oaths do say she came to her death as the result of an automobile accident. And so the said jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, so say, that the aforesaid Lucille Miller came to her death in the manner aforesaid.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I, GEORGE R. SUMHER, Coroner aforesaid, and the jurors aforesaid, to this inquisition, have set our hands and seals, the day and year aforesaid.

/s/ George R. Summer, Coroner (L.S.)
          /s/ Virgil C. Bouknight, Foreman (L.S.)

/s/ Marvin C. Eaves (L.S.)

/s/ Carroll Bouknight (L.S.)                                         /s/ Heyward Mills (L.S.)

/s/ Wyatt L. Moates, (L_S.)                                                  /s/ Lin Slaton (L.S.)

PROCEEDINGS

CORONER SUMMER: Will the Foreman of the Jury stand and be sworn?
(Whereupon, the Foreman and members of the Jury were duly sworn.)

CORONER SUMMER: Mr. Foreman and Gentlemen of the Jury, this is an inquisition into the death of Lucille Miller. It is your duty now to listen to the testimony we have to offer in this case, and from this testimony you will arrive at how this person came to her death. If you decide that someone else is responsible for her death, you will recommend in your verdict that they be held for Grand Jury investigation.

DAVE CROOKS, after being advised of his rights to testify or not testify at a Coroner's inquisition, being told that whatever he might say could be used for or against him in the event of further proceedings, volunteered to make a

statement, was duly sworn, and testified as follows:

By Coroner Summer:

Q.    Your full name is Dave Crooks?

A.    Honest Dave Crooks.

Q.    First, to start off with, Dave, I am going to let you go ahead and in your own words, tell these gentlemen just what happened the night of September 22, 1968. Take your time and speak loud enough so they can hear you.

A.    Emma Fielding asked me would I take her to Clinton and I told her, yes, I would carry her. She asked what
        would I charge her. I said, "No, you have been so good to me, I will carry you for the gas". She said, "Well, I am going by to pick up Lucille, will it be all right?" I to1d her yes. We went and got Lucille, and left and went straight to Clinton, and we left Clinton at around 9:30, and we came on back, straight away from Clin­ton, down the road. We come on up there on College Street and I reached and got a cigar­ette and pulled it out and put it in my mouth. I reached on the dashboard and got a match and struck it, and the match stem fell down in my bosom. I went to fighting it, grabbing the fire and when I looked up, it was too late for me to do anything. I saw two white girls standing where I hit the post. There was nothing I could do. I just couldn't do anything. It was just done that quick. I hated it so bad, I didnít know what to do.

Q.    What kind of car were you driving Dave?

A.    í59 Chevrolet

Q.    This Lucille Miller and Emma Fielding, where were they seated in the car?

A.    Lucille was in the front on the right with me and Emma Fielding was in the back.

Q.    Those were the only people with you?

A.    Thatís right.

Q.    Approximately what speed were you driving?

A.    About twenty miles an hour.

Q.    Approximately what time of day was it?

A.    It was around 10:30 that night, around that, as far as I know.

Q.    Did you have your lights on?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    After you hit this post, what did you do then, Dave?

A.    I couldn't do nothing. See, it knocked a hole in my head. I was knocked unconscious.

Q.    When you hit the post, you don't remember anything else?

A.    No, sir, I don't remember anything else, only one fellow come there. He was with the rescue squad. I knowed him. He said, "Dave, is you hurt" and 1 went to say something and another fellow came over there and said, "That other girl is dead" and he said, "No, she's not dead". He told him that not to worry me.

Q.    Who was he talking about?

A.    He was talking about Lucille Miller.

Q.    Did they carry you to the hospital?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Did they carry all of you to the hospital that was in the car?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Did you stay in the hospital after they treated you at the hospital?

A.    Yes, sir, I stayed there, I believe it was around six or seven days.

Q.    Is there anything else you can tell the jury about it?

A.    No, sir, that's all I know.

Q.    I believe you stated the match fell in your shirt, and when you looked up, the post was there and you didn't have time to put on brakes?

A.    No, sir, I didn't have time to put on brakes. When I got the match and grabbed it, it burned me. The only thing I remember seeing was two white girls standing down there and I had done hit the post.

Q.    Did these white girls leave there?

A.    I don't know.

Q.    Were they standing close to the post?

A.    No, sir, they were standing, coming out from the project, you know, that school project.

Q.    From those houses over there?

A.    I reckon that is the way they were coming. That is the direction they were standing, on the right.

CORONER SUMMER: Any questions?   That will be all, thank you.            (Witness Excused.)

EMMA FIELDING, being first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:

By Coroner Summer:

Q.    Your name is Emma Fielding?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    In your own words, tell these people just what you know about this accident?

A.    Well, we left and went to Clinton. I asked Mr. Crooks to carry us. We got up there and left and came back and

        we was talking coming down College Street, and we was talking, Lucille and I and Mr. Crooks and the next thing I remember, the last thing I remember was a scream. I don't know whether it was from me or Lucille, and then that was it until when I finally came to, it was the college boys, I believe, knocking on the win­dows, asking that they wanted to help, could I hear them, was I hurt, to let them in. The doors were locked. I finally came to and unlocked the door. When they got inside the car, they went to the front and Lucille was lying down in the front and one of them said, "This one's throat is cut". The one in the back said, "This one has both of her legs broken, one almost seems to be off, the feet part" and then there was the ambulance and Mr. Crooks and Lucille, they went in one ambulance and I went in the other. We all was carried to Newberry Hospital. At the hospital they couldn't do anything for me there, so they transferred me to Columbia Hospital. I stayed there about thirty days.­

Q.      You were sitting in the back seat of the car?

A.       Yes Sir.

Q.    Did you see Dave Crooks get a cigarette to light when you were coming down College Street?

A.    I donít remember that, no sir.

Q.    What side of the car in the back were you on, behind him?

A.    Behind Lucille.

Q.    You donít remember a match being struck in the car?

A.    No, I donít remember it.

Q.    But you were all three talking?

A.    Yes sir, we were talking, yes sir.

Q.    Had anybody been drinking in this crowd?

A.    No sir.

Q.    Do you know whether the lights were on this car at the time?

A.    Yes sir, the lights were on.

Q.    The lights were burning?

A.    Yes sir.

Q.    And this was approximately 10:00 o'clock or after?

A.    Somewhere like that, yes, sir.

Q.    Is there anything else you can tell us?

A.    No, sir, because I was knocked out and that's all I remember. Everything happened so fast, I really don't know what happened.

Q.    About what speed was he driving at that time, could you tell?

A.    Well, I don't have a license. He wasn't going fast, medium speed. He was not going fast.

Q.    Could you estimate whether it was 25 or 35 or what speed?

A.    I couldn't exactly say.

CORONER SUMMER: Any questions you gentlemen would like to ask? If that is all, thank you.      (Witness Excused.)

ROBERT GUY COUNTS, being first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:

By Coroner Summer:

Q.    What is your full name, sir?

A.    Robert Guy Counts.

Q.    At the time of this accident, what position did you hold, Mr. Counts?

A.    I was a policeman with the Newberry Police Department.

Q.    Mr. Counts, just tell these gentlemen of the jury what your investigation of this accident of September 22, 1968 was?

A.    We had the time of the accident set at approximately 9:45. It occurred on College Street in front of Newberry
        College. I believe it was the first utility pole this side of Fair Street, on the right hand side of the road coming into town. This car, a '59 Chevrolet, had hit this pole, not dead center but a little bit to the right side of the car. We found these three people in the car when we arrived at the scene and for me to say anyone was dead, I couldn't, because I'm not a doctor. We called an ambulance and got them to the hospital as quick as possible.

Sergeant Hamilton and myself started to try to determine what had happened. We checked and found no tire marks, no evidence where the brakes were applied on the car as far as tire marks are concerned, and later, when we talked to Mr. Crooks, he told us pretty much the same story he told you here tonight; that he was lighting a cigarette and dropped the match, took his eyes off the road, and the next thing he knew, he was hitting the pole.

Q.    How about the weather that night, Mr. Counts?

A.    It was clear. The road was dry and I'm sure all these gentlemen are familiar with the road character, a little grade and just a little curve.

Q.    This happened in Newberry County?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Did you smell any alcohol or anything at the scene of this accident, Mr. Counts?

A.    No, sir, I did not.

Q.    From the impact of this car, is there any way you could estimate maybe the speed?

A.    Sergeant Hamilton and myself estimated the speed of the car to be around forty miles per hour. It's hard to determine without any skid marks or anything, but judging by the damage, what it did to the car.

Q.    This utility pole, did it knock it down or cut it off?

A.    No, it was a new pole. I think it had just been put up.

Q.    That is one of those big new poles that has been put up?

A.    That's right.

Q.    Is there anything else you might could add, Mr. Counts?

A.    I don't believe so.

CORONER SUMMER: Anything you gentlemen would like to ask?

BY JUROR: You estimated the speed by the damage alone?

THE WITNESS: Well, yes, sir, that was just an estimate we put down on accident report, forty miles per hour. We didn't have any skid marks on the road. We were going by the impact against the pole, the way it had damaged the car and that was the only thing we had to go on.

Bt Coroner Summer:

Q.        The extent of the damage of this car, you said it hit more on one side of the car?

A.    On the right side of the car.

Q.    How far did it push that side of the car back?

A.    I couldnít be definite, Coroner, but I would say that far (indicating) the pole went back into the car, eighteen to twenty four inches.

Q.    Do you know whether it pushed the dash of the car in any?

A.    It was, you knowó

Q.    Buckled?

A.    Buckled, I believe the front seat was broken in the car from the weight of her body going against it, I suppose.

Q.    Were the lights knocked out of the car?

A.    The lights were broken.

Q.    Both lights?

A.    I really can't say about the lights on the left side but the lights on the right side were broken.

BY JUROR: No one was thrown out of the automobile?

THE WITNESS: No.

BY JUROR: At the time you questioned him, what was his story relating to the lighting of the cigarette?    

CORONER SUMMER: I believe he testified the story was the same as he told tonight.

BY JUROR: Exactly the same?

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.

BY JUROR: Was there a charge placed against him?

THE WITNESS: No formal charge.

BY JUROR: What is the speed limit there?

THE WITNESS: Thirty-five miles per hour.

CORONER SUMMER: There is no accurate way you could tell how fast he was going, this was just estimated?

THE WITNESS: This is just estimated. I'm not saying I know how fast the car was traveling. I am saying this is an approximate speed.

BY JUROR: It could have been thirty-five?

THE WITNESS: Thirty-five or less or more than forty.

CORONER SUMMER: Any other questions? Thank you, Mr. Counts. (Witness Excused)

CORONER SUMMER: This is the doctor's statement:

"To Whom it May Concern: This is to certify that Lucile Miller died because of a fractured cervical spine and severed spinal cord. Death occurred immediately after an auto accident on 9-22-68."                /s/     E. J. Dickert, M.D.

Mr. Foreman and Gentlemen of the Jury, this is all the evidence we have to offer in this case. You had your charge at the beginning of this inquisition. It is now your duty to restore to the jury room and pass your verdict on how Lucile Miller came to her death.  (Whereupon, the jury retired, and after deliberation, returned to the courtroom with the following verdict, concurred in by all jurors:)

"Lucile Miller came to her death as the result of an automobile accident.Ē

 (Whereupon, the inquest in the above-styled matter was concluded.)

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA, COUNTY OF NEWBERRY

AN INQUISITION, indented, taken at Newberry in the County and State aforesaid, the 14th day of February A. D., one thousand nine hundred and sixty-nine before GEORGE R. SUMMER, Coroner, upon view of the body of Jess Albert Williams, then and there being dead by the oaths of Virgil C. Bouknight, Wyatt L. Moates, Heyward Mills, Lin Slaton, Marvin C. Eaves and Carroll Bouknight, being a lawful jury of inquest who being charged and sworn to inquire, for the State of South Carolina where and by what means the said Jess Albert Williams came to his death, upon their oaths, do say he came to his death as the result of an automobile accident. We recommend that Thomas Stephens and Allen Herbert be held for Grand Jury investigation. And so the said jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, do say that the aforesaid Jess Albert Williams came to his death in the manner aforesaid, and recommend that Thomas Stephens and Allen Herbert be held for Grand Jury investigation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I, GEORGE R. SUMMER, Coroner aforesaid, and the jurors aforesaid, to this inquisition, have set our hands and seals, the day and year aforesaid.

/s/ George R. Summer, Coroner (L.S.)

/s/ Virgil C. Bouknight (L.S.)

/s/ Wyatt L. Moates (L.S.)

 /s/ Heyward Mills (L.S.)                                                       /s/ Marvin C. Eaves (L.S.)

/s/ Lin Slaton (L.S.)                                                   /s/ Carroll Bouknight (L.S.)

PROCEEDINGS

CORONER SUMMER:       Will the Foreman stand and be sworn? (Whereupon, the Foreman of the Jury, and members of the Jury, were duly sworn.)

CORONER SUMMER: Mr. Foreman and Gentleman of the Jury, this is an inquisition into the cause of death of Jess Albert Williams. It is your duty now to listen to the testimony we have to offer in this case, and from this testimony, you will arrive at how Jess Albert Williams came to his death. In this verdict, if you find someone else other than the deceased responsible for his death, you will recommend in your verdict that they be held for Grand Jury investigation.

STANLEY BATES, being first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:

By Coroner Summer:

Q.    Do we have your right name, Stanley Bates?

A.    Stanley Ray Bates.

Q.    Stanley Ray Bates? .

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    To start off with, I am going to let you tell what happened the day of this accident. Just take your time and talk loud enough so they can hear you and tell what happened.

A.    We left school there, it was about 9:00, I would say and rode around for a while and went to my cousin's house. We left there and went to the store and was on the way back to Prosperity then so about time we got to the track on Brown Street where it happened at--­

Q.    What happened on Brown Street?

A.    Right there where the accident was. I don't know what happen before then. I know the boy, the Herbert boy caught a hold to the steering wheel.

Q.    Herbert caught hold of the steering wheel?

A.    Yes sir.

Q.    While the car was in motion?

A.    Yes sir.

Q.    Did this Thomas Stephens, was he the driver of this car?

A.    Yes sir.

Q.    Was this a 1960 Corvair?

A.    Yes sir.

Q.    When you were driving along there, was Thomas Stephens driving the car straight, doing all right driving the automobile before he caught hold to the wheel?

A.    Seemed to me that he was.

Q.    Why did he catch the wheel? Did he say he caught the wheel?

A.    No sir.

Q.    But when he caught the wheel what happened?

A.    Well, that pulled us off the road into the pole.

Q.    That is what pulled you off the road into this iron railroad crossing?

A.    I guess so.

Q.    Where was he sitting?

A.    In the front seat.

Q.    With Thomas Stephens?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Where were you sitting?

A.    In the back in the left.

Q.    Who else was in the back seat with you?

A.    Clarence Brown and Jess Williams.

Q.    Where were they sitting?

A.    Clarence was in the middle, Jess was on the right side.

Q.    This side of the car that hit the post was the one that Williams was riding on?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Did anybody else at any time touch this steering wheel from the back seat?

A.    No, sir.

Q.    How fast was Stephens driving at that time when he grabbed the steering wheel?

A.    At the time he grabbed it, I don't know. Last time I remember looking how fast he was running, he was doing about sixty or sixty-five.

Q.    Was that after he caught the wheel, or before?

A.    That was before.

Q.    That was before he caught the wheel?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    After he caught the wheel, the car ran off the road, swerved around and hit the railroad crossing and post?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Did it throw anybody out of this car?

A.    I don't know, sir. I don't think so.

Q.    Were you knocked unconscious after you hit this post?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Were you out any length of time?

A.    I don't know, sir, how long it was.

Q.    Were there any alcoholic beverages being drunk in this car?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Before this accident?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Could you tell us how much was drunk?

A.    I think it was a pint.

Q.    A pint?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Was this whiskey, or wine or what?

A.    Whiskey.

Q.    Did this driver, Thomas Stephens, drink any of this whiskey?

A.    I didn't see him drink any.

Q.    You didn't see him drink any?

A.    No, sir.

Q.    How about the rest of the boys?

A.    Yes, sir, except Clarence Brown.

Q.    He didn't drink any?

A.    No, sir, he didn't drink any.

Q.    Who bought the whiskey? Which one of the boys bought the whiskey?

A.    Jess.

Q.    Jess Williams?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Where did you all go after you bought the whiskey?

A.    We left there and went to our cousin's house then.

Q.    Who was your cousin?

A.    Rosetta Davenport.

Q.    Did you drink at that home?

A.    No, sir.

Q.    Had you drunk any before you got there?

A.    I had.

Q.    You had, and nobody else had?

A.    Me and Jess, we had.

Q.    But at no time did you see Thomas Stephens drink any?

A.    No sir.

Q.    Or Brown?

A.    No sir.

Q.    You and Herbert and Williams were the only three you know who drank any?

A.    Yes Sir.

Q.    Did they buy any other kind of beverages?

A.    Yes sir, it was some in the car when we had the accident.

Q.    What was it, whiskey, or wine or what?

A.    I donít know sir.

Q.    You donít know. Do you know approximately what time this accident happened?

A.    It was quarter after ten, 10:30, somewhere along in there.

Q.    But you do know before this accident, or before Herbert grabbed the steering wheel, you say the speed Ė did you see the speedometer yourself? How fast it was going, 60 or 65?

A.    Yes, sir, I saw it, but it was before the accident. It wasn't right then.

Q.    Did you say anything about him driving that fast?

A.    No.

Q.    Did he seem to have good control of the car until the boy grabbed the steering wheel?

A.    To me he did. I don't know.

Q.    You ought to know whether he was riding al over the road or not, whether he was driving the car good or bad.

A.    It was good to me.

BY JUROR: Which way was the car headed? Was it going from Pros­perity or coming in towards Prosperity?

THE WITNESS: Going into Prosperity.

CORONER SUMMER: I believe this road comes in from out toward Hartford road back toward Prosperity. Anyway, they were coming toward Prosperity. Is there anything else you can tell us about this, Stanley?

THE WITNESS: No, sir.

CORONER SUMMER: Any other questions?

BY JUROR: He said he went store to his cousin's house then to the liquor store and later he said he went to the liquor store then to his cousin's.

CORONER SUMMER: I think he said he went to the whiskey store and stopped at his cousin's house, but he drank some whiskey before he got to his cousin's house. Is that right?

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.

BY JUROR: Is the place the accident happened in the city limits of Prosperity?

THE WITNESS: Where the accident happened?

BY JUROR: Yes.

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.

CORONER SUMMER: Any other questions?

BY JUROR: You don't have any idea why he grabbed the wheel?

THE WITNESS: No, sir.

BY JUROR: You don't know whether they had been arguing or anything?

THE WITNESS: No, sir, I know they hadn't been arguing.

BY JUROR: Didn't he say this one who grabbed the wheel was sitting outside, on the right side in the front?

CORONER SUMMER: Sitting in the front with Stephens.

BY JUROR: There were only two in front?

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.

CORONER SUMMER: Two in front and three in back.

BY JUROR: The one who grabbed the steering wheel, how much had he had to drink?

THE WITNESS: How much?

BY JUROR: Yes.

THE WITNESS: It's kind of hard to say.

CORONER SUMMER: You just drank one pint between the three of you?

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir,

CORONER SUMMER: You three drank a pint together, is that right?

BY JUROR: How about the other beverages, beer or wine, whichever it was?

THE WITNESS: I didn't drink any beer or wine.

BY JUROR: Didn't you say there was some in the car?

THE WITNESS: When the accident happened.

BY JUROR: Didn't anybody drink any?

THE WITNESS: No, sir.

CORONER SUMMER: The seal wasn't broken on this. Is there anything else, Stanley?

THE WITNESS: No, sir.

CORONER SUMMER: If not, that will be all.     (Witness Excused)

CLARENCE BROWN, being duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:

By Coroner Summer:

Q.    Your full name is Clarence Brown?

A.    Yes sir.

Q.    In your own words, tell these gentlemen just what you know about this accident in this car.

A.    When I got up Friday morning to go to school, I went to where I catch the bus. Thomas came by and told me, did
        I want to ride to school. I told him I would take the bus. I told him I would meet him at the store. I got n the bus and went to school. I came down the hall and went to the other side and went to the store. They was in class for first period class. I waited at the store until first period was over. When it was over, then is when I got in the car. We went to the liquor store and bought the stuff and went to their cousinís and went to Drayton Street and stopped by their cousinís house.

I stayed in the car while they went and talked to their cousin. We went up in the cemetery, left the cousin's house and went to the cemetery and drunk the stuff. He didn't see me take a drink but I took one. It wasn't much as he was drinking.

When we left there, they said we were going to Prosperity, they said they were going to take me to see the city.

Q.    Said they were going to take you where?

A.    To the city.

Q.    Prosperity?

A.    Yes, sir. So we left and we all went around on the road and so Allen, he grabbed to the steering wheel and the boy was driving straight then, and he grabbed the steering wheel.

Q.      Who did you say grabbed the wheel?

A.    Allen.

Q.      Allen?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Is this the Williams boy?

A.    Allen.

Q.    Oh, Allen Herbert.

A     Yes, sir. He grabbed the steering wheel. It must have throwed it off balance of the car and after he saw he was

        going to collide in the post, he slid on brakes and the car slid into the pole. The next thing I remember, I was out of the car and on the ground. I started walking home. I came down the railroad track all the way home. When I got home, about 30 minutes after I got home, my daddy drove up. I didn't want to tell Daddy about the accident. I hid under the bed. Daddy came in. He must have heard me. He checked around through the house and didn't see anybody so he checked in the room again and looked up under the bed and saw I was under there. He said, ďWhat are you doing home from school?Ē I said I went to the detention hall, I had a slip and he said, ďWhat are you doing home from school?Ē and I said, ďI'm supposed to be in detention hall, the teacher sent me.Ē He said, ďI'm going to get a strap and whip you." He got the strap and after about one lick, I run out the door and then you drove up.

Q.    Did this Thomas Stephens drink any of this whiskey?

A.    No, I didn't see him drink any.

Q.    You did take a drink of the whiskey?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    This was whiskey?

A.    Yes, sir. I did take a drink.

Q.    And the Williams boy drank some?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    And the Bates boy?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    And the Herbert boy?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    All of you drank some except Stephens?

A.    I didn't see him drink any.                                               .

Q.    Did they have the whiskey when they picked you up?

A.    No, sir.

Q.    They went and got it after they picked you up?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Do you know whether it was all whiskey that they bought?

A.    What I drunk was, that's all I know.

Q.    I believe you stated they went up to some graveyard and this is where they drank the whiskey?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Is that the only time, there at the graveyard?

A.    Yes sir.

Q.    On your way to Prosperity, how fast was Stephens driving?

A.    I don't know.

Q.    You don't know. The Bates boy testified about where these boys were sitting. Is that the same way they were sitting, as he testified?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Nobody from the back seat grabbed the steering wheel?

A.    Stanley tried to make him turn it loose. I told him to sit down, I told Stanley to sit down and thatís all I know about it.

Q.    After he tried to make Herbert turn the steering wheel loose, is then when the car started skidding into the post?

A.    Yes sir.

Q.    Did it knock you to the ground?

A.    No sir, I donít think. I stepped out.

Q.    You stepped out and went to the railroad track?

A.    Yes sir.

Q.    I believe you live on Bouknight Street in Newberry?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    There was no one else in the car except you five, is that right?

A.    That 's all.

Q.    When you said Herbert grabbed the steering wheel, was this com­ing up a little hill?

A.    I don't know.

Q.    Well, when he grabbed the steering wheel, did the car go into a yard and back out of the yard into the road and then hit the post?

A.    I don't think so.

Q.    Everything happened so fast you just don't remember?

A.    Yes, sir.

BY JUROR: I'm trying to establish a reason for him grabbing the wheel. Was there any arguing?

THE WITNESS: No, sir.

BY JUROR: To provoke that?

THE WITNESS: No, sir.

BY JUROR: You don't know why the boy grabbed the wheel?

THE WITNESS: No, sir, I don't.

CORONER SUMMER: He wasn't trying to get him to slow up or drive fast or anything like that?

THE WITNESS: No, sir, I don't think so.

BY JUROR: Was the other boy in the front seat intoxicated?

THE WITNESS: I don't know about intoxicated. He was drinking, that's all I know.

BY JUROR: Did he drink more than the rest of them?

THE WITNESS: I don't know.

CORONER SUMNER: How did you all drink, out of the bottle, pour it into a cup, or from the bottle?

THE WITNESS: From the bottle.

CORONER SUMMER: You don't know how much they drank?

THE WITNESS: No, sir.

CORONER SUMMER: Did they have one bottle or two?

THE WITNESS: I don't know what they had.

CORONER SUMMER: You don't know how many they bought at the whiskey store?

THE WITNESS: No, sir, I didn't go in.

QORONER SUMMER: How many went in?

THE WITNESS: Jess Albert went in.

CORONER SUMMER: Jess Albert Williams?

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.

BY JUROR: When the boy grabbed the steering wheel the first time, who did you say leaned up and tried to get him to turn it loose?

THE WITNESS: Bates.

BY JUROR: Did he let go?

THE WITNESS: No, sir, he didn't.

BY JUROR: Did you try to get him to let go?

THE WITNESS: He tried to, but he didn't. I told him to sit down and he sat back down. That is when all this happened.

CORONER SUMMER: All right, thank you.                 (Witness Excused)

ALLEN A. HERBERT, after being advised of his rights to testify or not testify at a Coroner's inquisition, being told that whatever he said might be used for or against him in the event of further proceedings, volunteered to make a statement, was duly sworn, and testified as follows:

By Coroner Summer:

Q.    Your full name is Allen Herbert?

A.    Allen Adam Herbert.

Q.    Allen, in your own words, just tell these gentlemen what you know about this case.

A.    We left school, Gallman, before the first period and we went downtown and Jess Williams went in the liquor store and bought some liquor. We came back on Drayton Street and went up a dirt road to the cemetery and we all took a drink.

Q.    You say you all took a drink, this included everybody in the car?

A.    Everybody in the car.

Q.    Including the driver?

A.    Yes sir. It went around the back and come to the front, then we went down to Stanley batesí cousin and stayed down there a while then we left there and we said we were going to Prosperity. We were going on Brown Street. I donít know how fast, but pretty fast and the car dipped to the left side of the road and a black line went across my eye. Thatís all I remember.

Q.    Did you grab the steering wheel?

A.    No sir, I didnít grab no steering wheel.

Q.    You didnít?

A.    No sir.

Q.    You were sitting in the front of the car?

A.    I was sitting in the front.

Q.    Do you know how much alcoholic beverages were bought, one, two or three bottles?

A.    No, sir, I don't know exactly how many.

Q.    How many bottles do you know were drunk?

A.    I know we drank out of one. That's all I remember.

Q.    You just remember one?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Do you know how fast he was driving?

A.    No, sir.

Q.    But you say he was driving real fast?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    Did you ever ask him to slow up?

A.    No, sir.

Q.    While he was driving, you say the car switched from one side of the road, to the left side of the road?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    What happened after it went to the left side?

A.    I don't know. That's all I remember, a black line across my eye.

Q.    This was just before the accident happened when it went to the left side of the road?

A.    The accident must have happened after that.

Q.    When the car came to the left, that's all you remember?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    At no time did you touch the steering wheel of the car?

A.    No, sir, I didn't touch the steering wheel.

Q.    These boys all that have testified said you did. You know you are under oath. I just want you to tell the truth.

A.    I am telling you the truth.

Q.    To clear the record up again; you said Thomas Stephens drank some whiskey out of this bottle?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    So did Albert Williams?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    So did Stanley Bates?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    So did Allen Herbert, which is you?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    And Clarence Brown?

A.    Yes, sir.

Q.    You say you blacked out, you don't remember any more after that?

A.    No, sir.

CORONER SUMMER: Any questions?

BY JUROR: Did at any time anyone from the back seat attempt to get hold of the steering wheel?

THE WITNESS: I don't know.

BY JUROR: How much did you say the driver of the automobile had drank, as much or more than you?

THE WITNESS: He had been drinking I know as much as I did.

CORONER SUMMER: The time you were drinking, was this a pint bottle?

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.

CORONER SUMMER: Did you drink one time around, two times or how many?

THE WITNESS: One time around.

CORONER SUMMER: You mean each one drank one time around, and all five of you drank the whole pint?

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.

CORONER SUMMER: There wasn't any left in the pint?

THE WITNESS: No, sir.

BY JUROR: One of the boys testified he reached up to get you to turn the wheel loose. Is that so?

THE WITNESS: No, sir.

BY JUROR: Did he touch you or say anything to you?

THE WITNESS: No sir, he didnít talk to me or say anything to me.

BY JUROR: Right before you say you blacked out, you were riding along at a high rate of speed, right?

THE WITNESS:  Yes, sir.

BY JUROR: What, if anything, can you remember happened, anything at all? Did anybody make a sudden move or anything at all?

THE WITNES No sir, all I can remember, the car dipped to the left side.

BY JUROR: You stated you blacked out?

THE WITNESS:  Yes sir.

BY JUROR: What caused you to black out? Were you intoxicated?

THE WITNESS:  I donít know.

CORONER SUMMER: You blacked out after it went off the road to the left, you blacked out at that time?

THE WITNESS: After it went off to the left side of the road and wheeled around and hit the pole, I blacked out.

CORONER SUMMER: Were you knocked out or did you pass out?

THE WITNESS:  I blacked out, I think.

BY JUROR: A while ago you said you blacked out before it hit the pole and just then you said you blacked out after it hit the pole.

THE WITNESS: After it hit the pole.

CORONER SUMMER: Is there anything else you might could tell us?

THE WITNESS:  No sir.

CORONER SUMMER: Now when you were coming down this road and he was driving at a high rate of speed, he switched to the left, you donít remember looking at the speedometer at that time; after he went to the left?

THE WITNESS:  No sir.

CORONER SUMMER: You donít know how far it traveled from the time it left the road until it hit the post?

THE WITNESS:  No sir.

BY JUROR: You donít know how fast he had been driving all along?

THE WITNESS:  No sir.

CORONER SUMMER: He just testified he was driving at a high rate of speed.

BY JUROR: Who was driving the car?

THE WITNESS:  Thomas Lee Stephens

BY JUROR: Have you ridden with him before in his car?

THE WITNESS:  Yes sir.

BY JUROR: What kind of driver was he?

THE WITNESS:  He seemed to be a pretty fair driver.

BY JUROR: What about that day?

THE WITNESS:  He was driving all right before he started drinking.

BY JUROR: Were you cutting up a little bit?

THE WITNESS:  Yes sir.

BY JUROR: You were?

THE WITNESS:   Yes sir.

CORONER SUMMER: Any other questions? Is that all you can tell us?

THE WITNESS:  Yes sir.

CORONER SUMMER: All right, thank you.                 (Witness Excused)

THOMAS STEPHENS, after being advised of his rights to testify or not testify at a Coronerís inquisition, being told that whatever he said might be used for or against him in the event of a further proceedings, declined to make a statement and the inquisition continued as follows:

DALLAS WILLINGHAM, being first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:

By Coroner Summer:

Q.    What is your full name, sir?

A.    Dallas Huey Willingham.      .

Q.    Mr. Willingham, what position do you hold?

A.    Chief of Police, Prosperity.

Q.    Mr. Willingham, in your own words, just tell these gentlemen here just what you investigation was of this accident.

A.    On the morning of the 7th of February 1969, approximately 10:30, a gentleman came into my office and told me
        they had an automobile accident on Brown Street. I proceeded over there in an emergency status. As I arrived on
Brown Street, this accident, Thomas Stephens and Stanley Bates were standing just outside of the automobile. I went over immediately and seen the occupants of the automobile who were still in the automobile. The one in the back seat was Jess Williams. The other one in the front seat was Allen Herbert. I immediately called for assistance, the highway patrol, ambulance, coroner, sheriff, to proceed to Prosperity to help in this tragedy, this accident we had had.

On my investigation at the time, immediately after the scene, I just listen to conversation, what was going on and from the two boys in the automobile which was Bates standing there and Thomas Stephens and there is a Mr. Holland lives in the house before you get to Brown Street, on Brown Street right before you get to the railroad track coming in east towards Prosperity, across the track coming towards Main Street and this gentleman, he was there himself also and of course from his conversation, he said he heard the automobile coming in at a real high rate of speed. About the time he got to his door, he thought it was going to run into the front porch or hit his automobile. The car swerved to the left side of the road and back across the road and turned around and hit this steel cross pole to the railroad crossing and broke it off at the bottom of the ground, and these boys at that time, I had Bates and Stephens sitting in my police automobile and I was on standby, mostly waiting on calls, if anybody called for my car, in case they called car 22. I checked Herbert out one of the first things since there was very little I could do for Williams. I checked Herbert and cleaned out his mouth and nasal passages where he could breathe, there was blood all around and this was the first scent I got of some type of alcohol. It was very strong. You could smell it good. I went over and asked Bates if he had been drinking. Bates made the state­ment, yes, he had been drinking some whiskey and the same with the Stephens boy. Stephens said no, he hadn't drank any whiskey. I was as c1ose as this to his face. He said no, he didn't drink any whiskey, he drank some wine. I told him to have a seat in the automobile. I found a pint of wine with the seal unbroken, not opened, in the back seat of the automobile. I picked it up. I went ahead with this and investigated this. and got assistance from the highway patrol to help with the investigation and we checked this thing out real thoroughly. The road was kind of, in this particular area before the railroad track, kind of damp being early in the morning. We had had rain a few days prior to this, maybe the day before. This was wet in this section, coming into this section. There is just a little knoll. You've got to definitely slow down to about ten miles an hour over the railroad track. If you don't, the rail­road's got it built up, in other words, it's a speed breaker, what it amounts to.

In our investigation, we saw where the automobile had left the right hand side of the road, swerved over to the left almost in the man's yard, leaving an indentation like this where it went into the soft mud, crossing the road and turning around where the right side of the automobile struck the steel pole. It struck more or less into the back right door and on this impact, this is evidently what threw Herbert in the windshield, causing the head injury or whatever the doctor found out was wrong, and this utility pole caused Williams to get severe injuries.

Q.    I believe this is a railroad crossing sign?

A.    Yes, sir, this is a steel pole with an IIXII railroad crossing. As I say, all this happened in this time, right before

        The time, I will say, the Sheriff and Coroner got down there. The boys were talking, talk­ing about drinking and playing in the automobile. This is just something I picked up by ear, if we hadnít been doing this, we wouldn't be in this predicament. I made a mote of this and wrote it down. The automobile went approximately 150 feet before it ever hit this where it went left and went from the right to the left side of the road for any brakes to be applied, we couldn't find any evidence where there have been brakes. There were brake marks before, right at the crest of the hill, but we couldn't say this was from this car.  On this particular road, we have some fellows who like to get out on the road and spin going out Brown Street. We could not determine whether these were from this car, where the boy had applied brakes, maybe throwing him over to the left side of the road, hitting the soft shoulder and went on into the pole. It is approximately 150 feet from where he went to the left side of the road to where he hit the pole before he stopped at all. Bates that day I taken him to the clinic, he seemed to be the one, in my personal opinion, about it, I don't know whether it was the injury or not, but he admitted he was drinking. He probably could hold whiskey or wine as well as the rest of them. He said it was 65 to 70 miles an hour just before the acci­dent happened and this was just about, we didn't estimate the speed, the only thing we went by was the distance from the time it went to the left side until it hit the railroad pole and broke it in half.

Q.    I believe at this time, Mr. Willingham, you didn't know there was a fifth person in the car?    .         .

A.    That's right, I did not. These boys didn't tell me about this. The only thing I got from them was that this was all in

        The automobile. I didn't know Clarence was in the car. This came up after it was about cleared out. Somebody came up and said there was a boy, Clarence Brown. At the time I talked to the boys, this was the only ones in the car, just the occupants that was there.

BY JUROR:

Q.    Any time during your investigation, did either one of the boys men­tion the fact that one grabbed the steering
        wheel?

A.    I understood that. I believe Bates told me on the scene that they had been playing and somebody had grabbed the
        steering wheel in this automo­bile. Maybe I didn't observe this as good as I should have. Of course play­ing in the automobile, the other part about drinking in the automobile, there was some mention between the two boys, Bates and Stephens standing alongside the road at the time. The biggest part I got from this conversation is that they were playing in the car going along. I just observed this part as far as the playing part. Just observing, they would have definitely had to slow the automobile down to make the railroad track.

Q.    The speed limit along there is about 30?

A.    35 miles per hour.

Q.    Do you know the boy that was driving the car?

A.    Yes.

Q.    Has he had previous record of any kind?

CORONER SUMMER: I donít think that would have anything to do with the case. We canít bring up anything that would be behind this.

BY JUROR:

Q.    What is your estimated speed they were driving Mr. Willingham?

A.    Well, me and the patrolman, from the way this car hit and from the impact where it hit the pole, we agreed with
        what the boy Bates had told me, between 65 and 70 miles an hour, in order to clip the steel pole plus the fact of damage to the automobile, the situation at the whole scene itself, and between us two, that is what we came up with. That is the reason I called the highway patrolman for assistance. They are a lot more experienced than us local police officers.

By Coroner Summer:

Q.    This railroad crossing post, that is exactly like the railroad track?

A.    It is a railroad track itself, cut and put up with the cross arm and this was clipped.

Q.    It was clipped right off the ground?

A.    Right off the ground. That is the impact it hit the pole with. I agree with one boy. They were all drinking.

        The information I got, mostly from hearing conversation at the scene of the accident. I did come out and ask the boy Stephens. He told me that he didn't drink whiskey but he drank wine.

BY JUROR: That was the driver?

THE WITNESS: That was the driver, yes, sir.

CORONER SUMMER: He told you that himself?

THE WITNESS: He told me, ďI can't drink whiskey, I drink wine." Bates told me he couldn't drink wine, he drank whiskey. You could tell on both the boys. They didn't deny it. I gave Stephens half a pack of Dentyne.

Q.    Was he in a highly agitated state after the accident?

A.    No, sir, I wouldn't say so.

Q.    Was he highly aggravated, nervous?

A.    They was all shook up.

Q.    In your opinion when he said wine, could he have meant whiskey or wine because a wine bottle unopened in the car flashed across his mind?

A.    In my opinion, it wouldn't make any difference whether it was wine or whiskey.

By Coroner Summer:

Q.    The only thing you can go by--­

A.    There was no test or anything. I got this from the scene of the acci­dent. I didn't want to get too much, other than enough evidence to go on for this particular type of thing we are having tonight.

Q.    No one is on trial here. This is a preliminary hearing to determine how the boy came to his death and whether someone was responsible for his death. This happened in Newberry County?

A.    Yes, sir. One other thing I would like to bring up, this automobile was an unsafe vehicle. The tires on the right side were slick, all of them. In fact, this boy had just bought a tire in Prosperity a few days before and put on the automobile. I understand when he bought it, at that time it wasn't any good: ďOh, that' s all right, I can run it on my car.Ē The two tires on the right hand side of the car which led the patrolman and myself to believe he might have hit the brakes, just estimating. The tires on the right are slick, no tread to hold you whatever if you applied the brakes.

BY JUROR: Were any of these tires blown out?

THE WITNESS: No, sir. All tires were still up. The biggest thing was they were slick on this particular type pavement.

CORONER SUMMER: The two tires you say were slick were one the front?

THE WITNESS: Both were on the right side, one on the back and one on the front. Both were just about the same.

CORONER SUMMER: Anything else?

BY JUROR: Stephens was a licensed driver?

CORONER SUMMER: That wouldn't have anything to do with it, but you can answer it.

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir, he is a licensed driver.

CORONER SUMMER: You said it would have been a natural reaction on the part of the vehicle, when applying the brakes, if there were slick tires on one side of the car, for it to go to the other side?

THE WITNESS: No, I said it could have. This is something we assumed could have happened by the tires not having a tread on them. Maybe you misunderstood me. I said this could have caused it. This is something we assumed might have happened.

CORONER SUMMER: Your investigation showed that it went in the direction in which the car tires had tread on them?

THE WITNESS:  Right.

CORONER SUMMER: Thank you.                   (Witness Excused)

CORONER SUMMER:  ďTo whom it may concern:  This is to certify that I examined the dead body of Jess Albert Williams on February 7, 1969 at 10:50 am. It was apparent that death was caused from massive concussion of the brain, caused by injuries sustained in an automobile accident.Ē This is signed by me, George R. Summer, Coroner, Newberry County.

Mr. Foreman and Gentlemen, this is all we have to offer in the case. You have heard the testimony we have to offer. Now it is your duty to retire to the jury room to pass your verdict on how Jess Albert Williams came to his death. (Whereupon the jury retired, and after deliberation, returned to the courtroom and delivered the following verdict, concurred in by all jurors):

 ďJess Albert Williams came to his death as the result of an automobile accident. We recommend that Thomas Stephens and Allen Herbert be held for Grand Jury investigation.Ē

Whereupon the hearing in the above styled matter was concluded.
 

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