ROSEVILLE, Mich. – A van was swerving and speeding at 80 mph, drawing gasps from other motorists, before it smashed into a car and killed four young people in a "horrific scene," witnesses told a judge Friday.
"I said, 'Oh, my God.' After that nothing else came out," said Tamiko Robinson, who saw the wreck moments after her vehicle "shook" from the full-size van's high speed on March 16.
Judge Joseph Boedeker of 49th District Court must decide whether Frances Dingle will go to trial for second-degree murder and driving under the influence causing death.
It was standing-room only, with more than half of the 42 courtroom seats filled with friends or family of the victims. Many wore black shirts with their names and pictures. Three of the four were teenagers who attended Lake Shore High School in St. Clair Shores.
"I'm here because I want to make sure justice is served," said friend Jake Jaster, 17, who took a day off from Utica High School. He has written a rap song about the crash, "Wrong Place, Wrong Time."
Some spectators dabbed tears or covered their faces with their hands as Roseville police Officer Thomas Bender described what he saw when he arrived at Gratiot Road near Macomb Mall.
Devon Spurlock, 19, was driving a Chevy Cavalier with Erica Haudek, 15, and Jordan Michalak and Stephanie Currie, both 16. They were waiting to cross Gratiot when their vehicle was struck by Dingle's van.
Bender said he found a "vehicle on the median that was severely crushed." In 29 years as an officer, he had never seen such a "horrific scene."
Dingle, meanwhile, was in the van, apparently unhurt, said Bender, who found a beer can inside.
"She was in somewhat of a daze. ... She said she had been drinking," he said.
Dingle didn't know the correct time, didn't know where she was and couldn't finish the alphabet, the officer testified.
Robinson pegged the van's speed at 80 mph. So did an off-duty Midland officer, David Trask, who was in the area to look at a used car. He said his wife gasped as she drove their Corvette.
"I was so taken aback by how rapidly the vehicle passed us. We made no attempt to follow it," Trask said.
Robinson said: "My first reaction was, 'This woman is flyin'."'
Before striking the Cavalier, the van hit a curb and went airborne, reducing its speed to 45 mph to 60 mph, said Roseville Sgt. Raymond Greenway, a specialist in crash analysis.
"The van never hit the brakes," he testified.
Coincidentally, Roseville officers encountered Dingle earlier that day while responding to a dispute involving her friends at a residence. Bender said she had been drinking, but there was no reason to impound her van.
"I instructed her not to leave because she did appear intoxicated," Officer Joe McCann said. "She said she would not leave."
Defense lawyer Michael Dennis at times aggressively cross-examined witnesses. Noting that Robinson wears glasses, he asked to see her driver's license for any restrictions.
He wondered if Trask was wearing his Midland uniform to impress the judge and criticized him for calling police a few hours after the crash instead of giving a written statement about Dingle's van. "How convenient," Dennis snapped.
Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo called the comment "unprofessional" and "inappropriate."
Roseville is located about 12 miles northeast of Detroit.