Jury Finds Barge Pilot Warren Luetke Not Guilty Of Criminally-Negligent Homicide

Monday, May 19, 2014 - by Hollie Webb
Captain Luetke and his wife after they received the not guilty verdict
Captain Luetke and his wife after they received the not guilty verdict
- photo by Hollie Webb

A jury found barge pilot Warren Luetke not guilty of criminally-negligent homicide after a week-long trial. The verdict was announced Monday morning after just about an hour of deliberation in the courtroom of Judge Barry Steelman.

In his closing statement, defense attorney Sam Hudson told the jury, "Ladies and gentlemen, accidents happen. Every accident should not result in criminal prosecution." 

He said, "The only evidence that has been introduced is that the boaters on the river weren't paying attention.

"

Captain Luetke was charged with two counts of criminally negligent homicide, reckless operation of a boat, and failure to render aid after the deaths of two men in a fishing boat struck by the barge he was piloting at the time. He was found innocent of all charges.

Attorney Hudson mentioned that one witness had equated the situation to "somebody getting hit by a walking horse while walking in the middle of a field."

Both deceased men, Richard Wilkey and Timothy Spidle, were found to have BACs of around .2, over twice the legal limit to operate a vehicle. 

Attorney Hudson said, "I submit to you their intoxication may have been the reason that they drowned." He pointed out that while it was clear the barge struck the boat, there was no evidence such as bodily injuries to indicate the barge actually struck the men.

In his testimony, Captain Luetke said the only possible explanation he could think of was that the boat could have been in the blind spot of the barge before he took control after the shift change. 

Attorney Hudson said, "That's a possibility, ladies and gentlemen, and that's reasonable doubt."

He also pointed out that Captain Will Stevens, the pilot of the Bearcat before the defendant took the wheel, testified that almost any other tugboat pilot would have done the same things. 

However, prosecutor Cameron Williams said, "It is not a defense that the negligent conduct of the deceased may also be a cause of the death."

He said, "I was brought up that you take responsibility for your actions. There are some people that are not brought up that way, and they'll say or do anything to avoid that responsibility." 

Prosecutor Williams said, "It's not a defense that they were intoxicated to the defendant's own criminal negligence...They have paid for those actions. They have paid the ultimate price. They paid for them with their lives."

He said that Chris Wilkey having a "junky boat" and "not maintaining a proper lookout" does not absolve the defendant for his own negligence. 

He said, "The defense says there's not a single shred of evidence he was not paying attention. That's not true; he struck the boat. If he would have been paying attention, he would have seen that boat and he would have avoided it."

- Photo2 by Hollie Webb

Walker County Arrest Report For Feb. 20-26

Here is the Walker County arrest report for Feb. 20-26: EVETT            TINA  LOREEN        W/F     52        Officer BLACK          BURGLARY, CRIMINAL TRESPASS, LOITERING AND PROWLING ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ARRIS, DANIEL LYNN  42 CARRIAGE HILL SIGNAL MTN, 37377  Age at Arrest: 44 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County Booked for Previous Charges or Other Reason(s) --- ATKINSON, LANDON JERMAINE  4300 EVERGREEN DR CHATTANOOGA, 37411  Age at Arrest: 26 years old Arresting Agency: ... (click for more)

Embrace America

Okay, Hollywierd we get it. The world of entertainment and cinema arts do not support President Trump. But for all their derisive and divisive speech, truth remains. People who support conservative values do not hate children, we do not hate immigrants, we do not hate other races and ethnicities although that is all you trumpet at every opportunity.  What we do support ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Eye Of The Storm

There is a very serious building in Norman, Okla., that houses the nation’s Storm Prediction Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service. According to a Four-Day Forecast released on Sunday, north Alabama and the Chattanooga area are in the middle of the bulls eye for the United States. Yes, it was about 40 degrees and sunny ... (click for more)

Mocs Close Out Regular Season At Citadel

The Chattanooga Mocs head to Charleston, S.C., for the regular season finale at The Citadel. They do so with a great deal of certainty for the upcoming Southern Conference Championships in Asheville, N.C.   The Mocs are the fourth seed and face No. 5 Wofford on Saturday, March 4, at 2:30 p.m. The rest of their half of the bracket is determined Monday night. The winner of ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Softball Falls To Saint Louis 5-2 In Frost Classic

 The Chattanooga Mocs softball team fell to Saint Louis, 5-2, on the final day of the annual Frost Classic hosted by UTC at Frost Stadium. The loss drops the Mocs to 5-9 on the season. Chattanooga will head south for the next three weekends as they round out the non-conference tournament slate. The first runs of the game came in the top of the second when SLU scored ... (click for more)