Investigator: Driver in deadly crash was going 108 mph
Michael Ball was driving 108 mph along the shoulder of Tillman Lane when his car collided with a vehicle driven by a Gardnerville woman, killing the mother of four, a Nevada Highway Patrol accident investigator said Thursday.
Trooper Dean Reynolds, testifying at the preliminary hearing of 23-year-old Ball, said the victim, Tamra Dykes, 46, was traveling at the posted speed of 25 mph along Tillman Lane before Ball’s car collided with hers about 9:15 a.m. July 16.
Reynolds estimated that after the crash, Ball’s car, a 1995 Honda, continued to move for 121 feet while Dykes’ Buick traveled 83 feet before stopping in juniper bushes on the other side of the street.
“There were no marks of braking from either vehicle,” Reynolds said. “There was so much energy when the Honda hit the Buick, that the Honda was still trying to continue in the same direction.”
Thirteen witnesses testified before Senior Justice of the Peace Steve McMorris, who was filling in for East Fork Justice Jim EnEarl. McMorris bound over Ball for trial on four felony charges and ordered him to appear for arraignment on Aug. 21 before Douglas County District Judge Dave Gamble.
Ball is in Douglas County Jail on $200,000 bail for the accident which killed Dykes.
He is charged with two counts of driving with a prohibited amount of controlled substance in the blood resulting in death or substantial bodily harm and two counts of reckless driving causing substantial bodily harm or death. If convicted, Ball faces 52 years in prison.
Two Washoe County toxicology experts testified that blood samples indicated the presence of marijuana in Ball’s system at the time of the accident, but said it was not possible to pinpoint exactly how much or when he ingested it.
Dr. William H. Anderson, chief toxicologist for the Washoe County Sheriff’s forensics department, said from the detectable levels of the drug in Ball’s blood samples, “one can’t say to the minute when or how much.”
“The level … would indicate recent use,” Anderson said. “There is plenty of evidence people are impaired in more subtle ways smoking marijuana than alcohol. It’s harder to determine. You don’t want people driving that have smoked marijuana in recent hours.”
Washoe County toxicology analyst Karyl Brown testified that marijuana was the only controlled substance found in Ball’s system.
A.J. Pieri, a 78-year-old retired construction worker, said he was on his way home from a friend’s house when Ball’s car came at him as he was driving north on Tillman. Pieri said he had just accelerated after a stop sign and saw a cloud of dust.
“He was coming at a high rate of speed. I thought he was going to hit me,” Pieri said.
The witness testified he swerved into the southbound lane to avoid the car. Ball’s vehicle went on the shoulder, then returned to the wrong side of the street.
Pieri said he watched Ball collide with Dykes’ vehicle from his rear-view mirror.
“I knew something was going to happen. I looked in my rear-view mirror and I saw the accident. There was this loud explosion, parts flew up in the air and everything just stopped. I got out of my car and ran back as fast as I could to try to help. I told a lady to call 911. I went over to her car and felt her wrist. There was no pulse. I knew she died instantly,” Pieri said.
He said Ball had left his car and was staggering toward him, yelling incoherently.
“He was screaming and going back and forth yelling. I told him he was a damn fool that he nearly killed me and had killed another person,” Pieri said.
Pieri and another man testified Ball ran to a nearby apartment complex for a few minutes, then returned to the scene.
Witnesses testified Ball was concerned about Dykes, pleading for help for her and trying to open her car door to get her out before emergency crews arrived.
“He (Ball) kept saying, ‘She’s not dead. She’s not dead. She’s not dead,'” Pieri said.
Victoria Peneutta, an acquaintance of Ball’s who lives in a nearby apartment complex, said he came knocking on her door, screaming for help, awakening her and her husband and a friend who was staying at their apartment.
“I heard him running around looking for help. He was screaming, ‘Please help me. I just got in an accident and I don’t have a license. I screwed up.’ He was completely freaked out,” Peneutta testified.
Travis Hayes, a passenger in Ball’s vehicle, said he couldn’t remember anything that happened from the time he left his home the night before with Ball to get $150 he owed the suspect until he woke up in Washoe Medical Center with a broken foot.
“All I remember is waking up in a hospital bed with a bunch of hoses coming out of my nose and throat,” Hayes said.
He said he was in the hospital for five days and will be in a cast for six to eight weeks. Doctors also warned him to protect his chest because of the danger of internal bleeding.
“He (Ball) came to my house the evening before to retrieve some money because he was getting evicted,” Hayes said. “He planned on leaving town and needed money for his family.”
At the time of the accident, Ball was free on $10,000 bail following a July 8 arrest for felony possession of methamphetamine and misdemeanor drug paraphernalia possession.
Since 1998, Ball has spent more than 600 days in jail on various charges. His driver’s license had been revoked.
Dr. Alane Olson, a forensics pathologist with the Washoe County Coroner’s Office, said Dykes died from head and neck injuries caused by the collision. Olson said there was no alcohol in Dykes’ system.
Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Cox said Ball suffered a cut toe, finger and had bruises from his seatbelt.
“He said,’I killed somebody’s mother. Don’t worry about me. I’m OK.’ He said he had been driving a little faster than the speed limit. I asked him why … and he said he was having a bad day,” Cox testified.