MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - A Madison County man is starting a new chapter of his life now that his manslaughter case has been dismissed in court.
His attorneys say the investigation was botched and essential evidence was “lost, destroyed or misplaced for the defense.”
Jeffery Kyle Volz, an Army veteran, walked out of the courtroom Thursday feeling relief as he has staunchly maintained his innocence from the start.
On August 7, 2014, Volz was driving to work on I-565 when something happened to his 2011 Chevy Camaro causing him to lose control. His car crossed over into oncoming traffic causing a head-on collision with another vehicle driven by Cheryl Witt. She passed away from the injuries she sustained in the accident. She was also on her way to work at the time of the crash.
Volz suffered a fractured spine and other injuries.
Tests taken from Volz showed that he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Police took possession of his Camaro immediately following the accident.
After being released from the hospital, Volz learned about recalls on his car that explained why he lost control of his vehicle, according to his attorneys- Marcus Helstowski and Nick Heatherly.
In their motion to dismiss the case, they indicated that Volz made repeated efforts to inform investigators, including a trip to the police department to provide copies of the GM recall letters. One of them was the ignition key recall issued due to the possibility for ignition failure which could affect engine power, power steering and power braking.
Volz said he felt the bottom of his car drop and then lost control. The car went into a side slide which was consistent with the mechanical failure attributed to the ignition switch recall, Helstowski and Heatherly said.
Nearly two years after the accident, a Madison County grand jury indicted Volz for manslaughter due to the rate of speed the state said he was traveling at the time of the crash.
The defense says proper calculations for speed were not done and that investigators admitted that if they had known about the recall on Volz’s vehicle that it would have changed the course and/or outcome of their investigation.
“If bad data and/or erroneous evidence is used in the analysis of the underlying investigation, the product of that investigation or conclusions reached are in error and the end result is a manifest injustice,” the motion to dismiss states.
In December 2014, Volz’s vehicle was released from the evidence impound lot and destroyed.
The defense said without the critical evidence, the state could not secure a fair trial because of the due process violation.
“There’s certain things that are incumbent on law enforcement to do to make sure that not only a victim gets a fair trial but also a defendant of a crime gets a fair trial. It’s incumbent on the state to preserve certain items of evidence,” Marcus Helstowski stated.
In October 2017, a trial ended in a hung jury.
“That was the first knowledge of certain inconsistencies and certain items of missing pieces that we were not aware of until we tried the case the first time. Thank goodness that the jury hung at that point in time because that got us to today,” Helstowski explained.
The state wanted another trial, but Volz’s lawyers filed the motion to dismiss the case and it was granted by Madison County Circuit Judge Claude Hundley on Thursday morning.
Shauna Barnett, Madison County assistant district attorney, was the prosecutor on the case.
She declined an interview but said she was “disappointed for Witt’s family” and “disappointed in how the case has gone from the start.”
In a transcript of the 2017 trial, Barnett told the jury that Volz was “driving way too fast, an excessive rate of speed on the interstate that caused him to lose control, go across the media and collided with Ms. Whitt, killing her.”
She also told jurors that the investigator on the case “didn’t do the things he was supposed to do” and “didn’t do his job," admitting that she yelled at the investigator and did not have him sitting with her in the courtroom during the trial because she didn’t want him there. “I hate that. I hate that he didn’t do a good investigation. I hate that for this family... I’ve never had to impeach my own officer like that. I hate it. Makes me feel bad for everybody involved,” the trial transcript reads.
She said the crash was so horrific that it took firefighters and paramedics 30 minutes to cut apart the wreckage in order to get Cheryl Witt removed from her crushed car and into an ambulance.
Motions to dismiss due to the spoliation of evidence are rarely granted. Volz faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter. He has no criminal history and has been adamant since the crash happened that it was an accident due to his car malfunctioning.
“It has weighed on Kyle every day for the last four years. He has thought about Ms. Cheryl Witt on a daily basis. We’re very happy with the outcome. I think the court made the right decision. I believe that this was just an unfortunate accident that occurred,”Helstowski said.
“As soon as we walked out of the courtroom, Mr. Volz was in tears now that this nightmare is over for him and that he can move past this. It was a very emotional day for Mr. Volz,” Heatherly added.