The teen driver charged in a fatal crash that killed three Bellbrook High School students entered a denial plea to vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter, failure to control and failure to remain left of center, according to the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office.
Jesse Ryan Whitaker, 18, entered the plea during his initial appearance in Greene County Juvenile Court Tuesday morning.
Whitaker was charged as a juvenile because he was 17-years-old at the time of the crash, said Greene County Prosecutor Stephen Haller.
A status conference hearing for Whitaker, who now lives in Cincinnati, has been scheduled for Jan. 3.
“It’s basically a deadline for the exchange of discovery,” Haller said.
The prosecutor’s office has shared evidence with Whitaker’s defense attorney and the defense has until the date of the conference hearing to share what they have, Haller said.
Tuesday’s hearing, which was closed to the public, came more than a year after Julianna Hawk, 14; Sophie Kerrigan, 17; and Skylar Kooken, 16, were riding inside the extended cab of a Dodge pickup truck traveling on Wagner Road near Oleva Drive after midnight when the vehicle crashed into a tree.
Hawk was at a party late Nov. 3 when she called Magill, Kerrigan and Kooken and asked for a ride home. They got a ride from Whitaker who also picked up Hawk in Kettering before the crash.
Officers who responded to the crash did not give Whitaker a blood or breathalyzer test. There was no evidence of alcoholic beverage containers in the pickup truck and Whitaker did not show any signs, such as blood shot eyes or slurred speech, of having consumed any alcoholic beverages, Haller said.
“There was no probable cause to believe he was drinking,” Haller said.
Bellbrook High School students Zachery Morgan, who was 18, and Allison Magill, then 17, were also in the truck and injured in the crash. Magill, who rode in the rear seat, had a punctured lung and fractured collarbone, ribs and pelvis. She said only Morgan, Whitaker and Kooken had been wearing seat belts.