You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

Frank Gray

  • Animal lover's petting zoo sullied by false allegations
    Darlene Chrisman has lived in the same place just outside the city limits for 20 years, and she says she’s had horses since 2000.
  • Paulding reports big-cat sightings
    It's not necessarily a case of who's hunting whom, but over in Paulding County, Ohio, there have been reports of a big cat – a really big cat – lurking in the woods and fields a few miles southeast of the county seat.
  • ‘Never give up’ is warrior’s way
    Travis Mills was a staff sergeant on his third tour in Afghanistan on April 10, 2012, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device.
Advertisement
Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Pam Shelmadine is seeking witnesses to the semi crash on Interstate 69 that killed her son and father July 11, 2013.

Mom presses for justice in fatal crash

Almost 11 months have passed since a semi sideswiped another rig that was broken down along Interstate 69 near Parkview Regional Medical Center, killing Pam Shelmadine’s father, Blaine Miller, her son, Jeff Shelmadine, and a third person, Tyrek Murphy from Oklahoma.

Miller and Shelmadine, both well known in racing circuits in Indiana, also worked for Blaine Miller Road Service and were on the side of the interstate trying to service the disabled rig when the crash happened.

But months after the crash, no charges have been filed in the crash, and Shelmadine feels abandoned.

She says people say that she lost her husband and son, but she doesn’t like that term.

“They were taken from us,” Shelmadine says.

Meanwhile, she says the prosecutors have told her that there’s nothing they can do, that they don’t have enough evidence to file any charges in the crash.

“It’s not right that he can get away with it,” she says of the driver of the rig that caused the crash, a Michigan man named Randy Withrow.

So Shelmadine has put out a plea for anyone who witnessed the crash to come forward.

No witnesses stopped after the crash, she said. Her father was left dead, underneath a semi, and her son was left dead leaning against a guardrail, and people drove by, she says. Certainly, she says, someone saw what happened, and she’s pleaded for them to come forward.

And if that doesn’t happen, she says, she’ll go to the Indiana legislature and get the law changed so it isn’t so easy to kill someone and get away it.

I talked to Mike McAlexander with the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office about the whole issue.

McAlexander wouldn’t talk specifically about the Shelmadine case, other than to say that the case isn’t closed, it isn’t settled; they’re still working it.

But he acknowledges that fatal crashes are some of the most difficult cases the prosecutor’s office has to deal with, and mounting a criminal case can be difficult if a person isn’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

There have been drivers prosecuted in Allen County for fatal crashes in just the past couple of years, but in those cases, the drivers were cited for recklessness, which is described as deliberate, egregious behavior so out of the ordinary that it constitutes a complete disregard for safety. In the case of the two truck drivers prosecuted for fatal crashes, both had slammed into the rear of vehicles that were stopped at traffic lights, and in at least one of those cases the driver never even braked before hitting the cars.

A few years ago, the state passed a law requiring drivers to slow down or pull over when passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road. That law was passed after cars hit and killed state troopers who were stopped on the side of the road with their emergency lights flashing. But there’s no such protection for ordinary motorists, and proving reckless behavior can be difficult, McAlexander said.

“It’s very difficult to file criminal charges,” McAlexander said. A lot of fatal accidents happen when no one is really doing anything wrong, he said. Still, in every case, McAlexander said, “We take a good, long look. We understand families’ concerns.”

Part of the problem is that Indiana doesn’t have a negligent homicide statute, McAlexander said.

Such a law might fill a gap, he said, but it wouldn’t provide a perfect answer. It would be a low-level criminal offense and would likely also carry a small penalty.

Such a law, though, could have drawbacks, McAlexander said, because it could open up accidents such as hunting accidents to criminal prosecution.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

Advertisement