Evidence disputed in wrong-way crash killing 3 Mason family members

Abby Michaels

Combined ShapeCaption
Abby Michaels

Attorneys for Abby Michaels Thursday portrayed a key witness against her as an inexperienced police officer who conducted an illegal search and later resigned for falsifying records.

But former Moraine Officer Steven Harrison said he entered Michaels’ car without a warrant on March 17, 2019 after the wrong-way wreck that killed three Warren County family members because he was seeking information to help keep the unconscious driver from dying.

“It was urgent and we were trying to save her life,” he said.

Harrison testified for more than two hours in a hearing to decide if statements, police officers’ observations, and blood and urine samples taken hours after the crash will be allowed in the case against Michaels, 22.

POPULAR: Driver in wrong-way wreck that killed 3 from Warren County family wants tests tossed out

She is charged with multiple murder counts and other felonies in the wreck that claimed the lives of husband and wife Timmy and Karen Thompson, and their 10-year-old daughter Tessa, all of Mason.

Authorities said Michaels deliberately drove northbound in the southbound lanes, causing the fatalities.

Harrison had been a Moraine officer for fewer than three months when he responded the crash about 8 p.m.

Harrison said he saw Michaels’ Kia and the Thompsons’ Camry facing each other in the southbound lanes with both front ends smashed and debris scattered in all directions.

Harrison said he and medics came upon Michaels, who was on her back and not breathing. While about two feet away from Michaels, Harrison said he smelled alcoholic beverages on her.

EARLIER: Wrong-way driver in crash that killed 3 seeks to change plea

Harrison said medics said froth or foam that they described as beer was blocking Michaels’ air way.

While medics worked to revive the defendant, Harrison said he entered her car without a warrant in search identification and possibly medical information.

“There was some urgency to get inside the vehicle,” he said, noting “I didn’t take any items from the vehicle.”

In a purse, Harrison said he found Michaels’ identification and a container used for fireballs, a cinnamon flavored whiskey. The container had dried, brown remnants, he said.

After Michaels was taken by medical helicopter to Miami Valley Hospital, Harrison said he and Officer Matt Barrie obtained a warrant to draw Michaels’ blood. She was in the hospital’s ICU, hooked up to a ventilator and still unconscious when the blood was drawn about 12:50 a.m., a nurse testified Thursday.

EARLIER: Ohio unveils way to curb wrong-way deaths; local driver faces murder charges

Shortly afterward, Harrison said he was instructed to read a form to a still unconscious Michaels that she was “under arrest.”

Defense attorney Jay Adams questioned several of Harrison’s actions. In a report filed by Harrison, Adams said there was no reference of Michaels smelling like alcohol.

Adams also questioned why Harrison – in an attempt to ID Michaels — did not run a check on her car’s license plate.

Adams in court filings said the blood was not drawn within the legal time frame (three hours), was not properly stored, and a chain of custody was not maintained.

Harrison agreed when Adams suggested he was given a large responsibility for a 90-day employee. The defense attorney also questioned ethics, saying Harrison later falsified evidence in a separate case, leading to his resignation as a Moraine police officer.

RELATED: Estranged husband: Wife in deadly crash planned ‘to drive backwards on I-75’

Harrison responded “yes” when Adams said “at some point in the past your word was questioned by the Moraine Police Department?”

Michaels remains in the Montgomery County Jail on a $3 million bond.

About the Author