Judge tosses woman’s blood-alcohol test in I-75 wrong-way crash that killed Mason family

Abby Michaels
Abby Michaels

Credit: MONTGOMERY COUNTY JAIL

Credit: MONTGOMERY COUNTY JAIL

Case against Abby Michaels set for trial in February 2022.

A Montgomery County judge will not allow blood-alcohol results presented as evidence against a driver charged with murder in the wrong-way Interstate 75 crash on St. Patrick’s Day 2019 that killed a Mason family of three.

Abby Marie Michaels, 23, is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 28, 2022, in Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Steven Dankof’s courtroom. She was indicted in July 2019 for six counts of murder, six counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in the March 17 crash that killed Tommy and Karen Thompson and their 10-year-old daughter, Tessa.

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Her attorney filed a motion to suppress evidence, including alcohol test results and a search of her car.

“Were this court to permit introduction of Ms. Michaels’ so-called blood-alcohol findings, this court would guarantee the admission of junk, forensic science at trial,” Dankof wrote in his ruling issued Thursday.

The judge determined there were major flaws with statements made by former Moraine police officer Steven Harrison’s affidavit to Kettering Municipal Court Judge Steven Long in a request for a him to sign a warrant for the search and blood test. Dankof also found irregularities in the way the blood sample was collected and handled before testing.

“The balance of Ofc. Harrison’s statements in the affidavit are patently false, utterly misleading, and this court finds, as a matter of fact, that they were made with a complete disregard for the truth and for the purpose of misleading Judge Long into signing the warrant,” Dankof wrote.

Harrison stated that Michaels, of Xenia, had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage after the crash and that she “was aspirating beer.” A Moraine paramedic testified that he only noted an odor of alcohol coming from vomit after she was intubated; however, he admitted that from the odor there was no way to detect its concentration nor whether she was intoxicated. Harrison also described a plastic handled Fireball whisky logo bucket as a cup containing an unknown liquid when it was not a drinking container and did not contain any liquids, the judge stated.

Harrison has since resigned from the department.

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The blood sample was collected five hours after the crash, when Ohio law requires that it be done within three hours. In addition, the nurse had never before drawn blood for an OVI test and did not use all of the items in a test kit so she could not be certain no alcohol was applied to the skin as an antiseptic nor whether a solid anticoagulant was used, Dankof noted in his ruling.

State law requires that OVI test samples be refrigerated while not in transit, but Harrison instead put the sample in the outgoing mail for pickup and it went without refrigeration for eight to nine hours before the U.S. Postal Service delivered it to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations lab in London, the judge found.

According to the test, Michaels had a blood-alcohol content of 0.09, above Ohio’s legal driving limit of 0.08, but Dankof said it was not reliable.

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Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Greg Flannagan said Thursday night that they were reviewing the judge’s ruling.

“However, this ruling will not affect the six counts of murder or three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide for which the defendant was indicted,” Flannagan said.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. has said Michaels deliberately drove the wrong way on I-75 after pulling over in an emergency U-turn area on the highway near mile marker 49 and that whether she was intoxicated was not a factor.

A statement from her estranged husband indicated Michaels told him “I’m going to drive backwards on I-75” just minutes before the triple-fatal crash. The call to her husband was made after Michaels saw friends at a Miamisburg pizza restaurant, Moraine Police Division records show.

Following her indictment, she was arrested by Moraine police at a Washington Twp. alcohol and drug treatment facility, according to police records.

She is no longer housed in the Montgomery County Jail, online records show.