The 21-year-old driver facing murder charges in a wrong-way crash that killed three members of a Warren County family on St. Patrick’s Day has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
The attorney for Abby Michaels, formerly of Xenia, filed the plea change on Wednesday.
Timmy and Karen Thompson, and their 10-year-old daughter Tessa, all of Mason, died in the March 17 crash on Interstate 75 in Moraine.
Not guilty pleas had been entered previously for Michaels, who is charged with six counts of murder, six counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
Defense attorney Jay Adams’ two-sentence motion asks Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Dankof “for an examination of defendant’s mental condition at the time of the offense and current competence to stand trial.”
Adams declined to further explain the plea change.
“The motion speaks for itself and it is what is legally required for review by the court,” he said in an email. “Evaluations have been ordered by the court and this case will be back in front of Judge Dankof in five weeks after the evaluation process has been completed.”
Michaels was indicted last month after a four-month investigation. Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. has alleged she deliberately drove the wrong way northbound in the southbound lanes of I-75 after pulling over in an emergency U-Turn area on the highway.
Blood-alcohol tests show Michaels was above the legal limit for driving, police records say, but Heck said that was not a factor in the wreck.
A statement from Michaels’ estranged husband on July 8 said she told him, “I’m going to drive backwards on I-75” just minutes before the fatal crash occurred, according to Moraine Police Division records.
Michaels’ husband said she called him about 8 p.m. March 17 and it appeared she had been drinking.
The call to her husband was made after Michaels saw friends at a Miamisburg pizza restaurant, police records say. Michaels got to the restaurant about 6 p.m. and “seemed to be sober and seem to be in a good mood,” police records say.
A $3 million bond was set for Michaels on the same day earlier this month that the Ohio Department of Transportation announced a system to better detect and deter wrong-way drivers.
The system — with 92 electronic signs and 82 detection devices — uses LED lights around the edge of several “wrong way” and “do not enter” signs that will begin to flash. An alert is also sent to ODOT’s Traffic Management Center in Columbus.
The new system would not prevent someone using an emergency U-Turn lane on the highway from driving the wrong way, ODOT spokesman Matt Bruning told this news organization.
“We can only do so much,” Bruning said. “But the ultimate decision of what to do lies in the hands of the person holding the steering wheel.”
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