A Montgomery County judge passed down a not guilty verdict following the trial of the woman accused of killing three members of a Mason family in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 75 on St. Patrick’s Day in 2019.
Abby Michaels, 25, of Fairborn, was charged with six counts of murder and three counts of vehicular homicide.
Judge Steven Dankof filed his verdict in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court on Friday, the day after Michaels’ bench trial finished, citing Michaels’ medical history in his ruling.
“... (B)ased upon Michaels’ documented medical history, she was mentally ill at the time of the accident with borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychogenic non-epileptic seizure disorder and bi-polar disorder, all of which were untreated, such that Michaels likely was not ‘knowingly’ and ‘recklessly’ operating the car,” Dankof wrote in his verdict.
READ THE RULING:
Bench trials are when a judge decides the facts of the case and reaches a verdict.
Michaels’ charges are in connection to the deaths of Timmy and Karen Thompson and their 10-year-old daughter, Tessa.
“The investigating law enforcement agency, Moraine Police Department, and we firmly believe there was sufficient evidence to prove Abby Michaels’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and as such we are shocked and disappointed with Judge Dankof’s ruling today,” the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office shared in a statement on Friday. “We will continue to fight for justice for every victim in Montgomery County. Our continued thoughts and prayers are with the Thompson family during this difficult time.”
Michaels’ attorneys did not return a request for comment.
On Thursday, the state and Michaels’ defense attorney presented their closing arguments.
Prosecutors argued that Michaels knowingly and recklessly caused the deaths of the Thompsons, “using her car as a deadly weapon.”
Michaels’ attorneys argued that childhood trauma paired with rejection by her ex-husband caused her to have a psychogenic seizure and lose control of her car. Michaels has a medical history that includes seizures and a brain surgery.
The four-day trial featured state and defense witnesses, including Michaels’ ex-husband, the man she was dating at the time of the crash, an employee at the pizza shop where she celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, an Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles investigator, a paramedic who responded to the crash scene, a Moraine Police Division sergeant, the mental health professional who treated Michaels after the crash and others.
Kyle Pastorelle married Michaels in 2018. The couple separated later that year, and he filed for divorce two days before the crash, according to his testimony.
The man told the courtroom on Monday that he received phone calls and texts from Michaels the evening of the crash but was hesitant to respond to her after taking one of her calls. During that call, which lasted two minutes, Pastorelle said he recalls Michaels allegedly telling him she was going to “drive backwards on I-75″ after he declined to let her come over to talk.
Dankof wrote in his ruling that he found Pastorelle’s testimony “untrue and unworthy of belief,” as Pastorelle failed to report to police who interviewed him following the crash that Michaels voiced plans to harm herself.
Minutes later — shortly before the crash — Michaels texted Pastorelle: “Gooxtbye (sic), I love you Kyle. I’m dying now.”
“On its face, the text most certainly does not even hint at a plan to drive into oncoming traffic on I-75,” the judge wrote in his ruling.
Michaels previously was charged with an OVI count, but that charge was dropped from her indictment last week. This follows Dankof’s 2021 decision to not allow blood-alcohol results presented as evidence against Michaels. Dankof determined there were irregularities in the way the blood sample was collected and handled before testing, as well as flaws with statements made by an officer’s affidavit to Kettering Municipal Court in a request to have a warrant signed.