By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Two Whitley County women were each handed a five-count indictment in Whitley County Circuit Court Tuesday in connection with a string of car crashes along I-75 Thanksgiving weekend.
Angela A. Vannatter, 41, of Williamsburg, and Elizabeth Paul, 24, of Rockholds, face multiple charges after allegedly causing five car crashes while driving southbound in the northbound lanes of the interstate.
The last of those crashes sent three people, one of which was an infant, to Baptist Regional Medical Center.
Vannatter, the alleged driver, faces five counts in her indictment. The first three counts are all second-degree assault after crashing into a vehicle in which Laura McGregor, Nathan McGregor and an infant were traveling in, causing “serious physical injury” to all three. That crash allegedly occurred while Vannatter was driving under the influence.
Count IV of her indictment charges her with first-degree wanton endangerment “when she manifested extreme indifference to human life by wantonly driving a vehicle while under the influence so as to cause substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to Chris Smith.”
The fifth count charges Vannatter with first-degree criminal mischief “by intentionally doing damage to a 2005 Honda Pilot vehicle belonging to (the McGregors) causing damage in excess of $1,000.”
Paul, who was riding with Vannatter, also faces five counts in her indictment.
The first three counts indict her on separate criminal complicity to commit second-degree assault charges when she “aided and assisted (Vannatter) in operating a motor vehicle” which crashed into the McGregors’ vehicle.
The fourth count also charges Paul with criminal complicity to commit first-degree wanton endangerment after allegedly helping Vannatter “(manifest) extreme indifference to human life by allowing (Vannatter) to wantonly drive a vehicle while under the influence so as to cause substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to Chris Smith.”
The fifth count states Paul was criminally complicit to commit first-degree criminal mischief after “aiding” Vannatter in damaging the McGregors’ vehicle.
Vannatter is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 4. Paul’s next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 18.
Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird said the department received 911 calls around 1:30 a.m. Nov. 24 concerning a vehicle traveling south in the northbound lane of I-75 from Exit 15.
While being dispatched, Bird said Whitley County 911 began receiving the same calls, adding several vehicles had been sideswiped. The suspect vehicle continued to travel south in the northbound lane, despite having hit other drivers, he said.
Finally, a head-on collision with the McGregors at the 12 mile marker stopped the drive. Williamsburg Police Captain Eddie Cain arrived at the crash site and determined the two women were under the influence of alcohol, and even discovered an open container inside the vehicle.
Both women were jailed in the Whitley County Detention Center.