Fatal Accident Case Goes to Grand Jury

Fatal Accident Case Goes to Grand Jury

Gregory Park Moldenhauer and Thomas Edward Bolt Jr. were buddies. And on Bolt's 27th birthday, Dec. 12, they went out celebrating. But as they returned home to Chantilly in the early hours of Dec. 13, Moldenhauer lost control of his car and slammed into a tree.

He survived the crash; his friend didn't. Bolt died that night on Walney Road, and Fairfax County police charged Moldenhauer with involuntary manslaughter.

BELIEVING ALCOHOL played a strong role in the tragedy, last Monday, April 19, in General District Court, the Commonwealth amended the charge to DUI involuntary manslaughter. And after hearing testimony from numerous witnesses, Judge William Minor certified the case to the grand jury.

Moldenhauer, 26, of 9334 Tartan View Drive in Fairfax, pleaded not guilty. Then Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Ben'Ary called fire and rescue personnel to the stand to describe what they saw that night.

The crash occurred around 12:30 a.m. Moldenhauer was driving a silver, 2003 Acura RSX north on Walney Road, near E.C. Lawrence Park. But as he approached Walney Park Drive, his car crossed over the southbound lanes, struck an embankment and hit a tree. Bolt, of Chantilly's Brookside community, was the front-seat passenger.

Police Officer Timothy Catir arrived on the scene first. After striking the tree, he said, "The vehicle flipped onto the passenger side. The driver was still suspended from his seatbelt."

He said emergency personnel attempted to extricate both people. Moldenhauer was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital for treatment of leg injuries sustained in the accident.

Catir also went to the hospital — and arrested Moldenhauer. "He smelled like alcoholic beverages when I got close enough to him in the emergency room to place him under arrest," he said.

Defense attorney Bob Whitestone asked if the Acura was a hardtop. "No," replied the officer. "They had to cut the roof off to extricate the occupants." He said the process took 40 minutes or longer.

Catir noted "a bottle of Jim Beam [whiskey] on the scene, probably 20-30 feet from the vehicle." However, he added, "I have no idea whether it was associated with the vehicle or this incident."

When he got to the crash site, said Catir, Moldenhauer was "writhing in pain and yelling out. His leg was trapped between the car and the tree." When Whitestone asked if the officer thought his client displayed symptoms of shock, Catir said no.

SINCE MOLDENHAUER was Medevaced to the hospital right after being freed, Catir wasn't able to administer a sobriety test to him at the scene. "Did you ask him if he'd been drinking?" asked Whitestone. "I asked him how much he had to drink that night, and he said, 'A few beers,'" answered Catir. "I asked him, 'How long ago?' but he just said he'd been drinking."

"On what basis did you arrest him for DWI?" asked Whitestone. "There was an auto accident, I smelled alcohol on his breath, his eyes were bloodshot and he appeared to be intoxicated — he slurred his words," replied the officer.

Ben'Ary then called Lt. David Bryant, a paramedic with Chantilly's Fire Station 15. He said the overturned car was "pinned against a tree, top first," and Bolt was already dead. He identified Moldenhauer as the person on the driver's side.

Bryant said rescue personnel spoke with Moldenhauer while waiting for the extrication team. "It appeared that he had an odor of alcohol," said Bryant. "Later on, we learned he'd been celebrating the birthday of a friend."

"Did he say anything about his friend?" asked Whitestone. Replied Bryant: "I don't think he realized, until we started to move the car away from the tree, where his friend was."

Moldenhauer went by ambulance from the crash site to E.C. Lawrence Park, two miles away, where the Medevac helicopter had landed. Officer Paul DeHaven, a paramedic assigned to the police helicopter division, flew with Moldenhauer to the hospital.

"In the helicopter, there was a very strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath and his person, each time he spoke," testified DeHaven. He said Moldenhauer was distraught and "not completely cooperative" about answering questions.

However, said DeHaven, "He stated he'd been out celebrating his buddy's 27th birthday and that he'd consumed several drinks throughout the night. They'd gone to a club."

HE, TOO, said Moldenhauer didn't exhibit any signs of traumatic shock, but did have some "minor bruising" to both knees. Added DeHaven: "He cried and repetitively asked me, 'How is my buddy? Tell me how he is.'"

Det. Clinton Beach, who works on the police department's Crash Reconstruction Unit, responded to the scene at 2 a.m. to investigate the accident. "I noticed two, long tire marks — indicating a side-slipped tire — and a large gash on the pavement," he said.

"You were able to trace these tire marks and gouge to this, particular vehicle?" asked Whitestone. "Yes," said Beach. "There's damage to the right-rear tire rim which dug into the asphalt and caused a significant gouge." Because of these marks, he was able to reconstruct the accident.

The detective also noted that the accident happened on a straight stretch of road and "it was evident that there was a lot of speed involved. The frame of the vehicle was bowed and wrapped around the tree, and the vehicle had lost its lateral stability. And from the striations on the side-slipping tire and the two marks on the road, we know there was no breaking involved."

Beach said he determined the Acura had been traveling 55-60 mph on the 35-mph road. "We determined the frictional value of the [road] surface at the scene of the accident and then used a mathematical formula to determine the speed," he explained. "I believe [Moldenhauer] was traveling too fast for that road, he rotated his vehicle, struck an embankment, the vehicle did a half roll and the passenger was crushed."

Dr. Carol O'Neal, a forensic toxicologist, testified that alcohol increases a person's reflexes and reaction time, causes loss of coordination and affects judgment so someone "will think they can drive when they can't."

Beach said Moldenhauer "refused to give blood at the hospital" so police could learn its alcohol content, so he got a search warrant to have it done and was present when the blood was drawn.

The results weren't revealed in court, but the judge found probable cause to believe Moldenhauer's guilty as charged and certified the case to the next grand jury for possible indictment. If convicted, he could receive as much as 10 years in prison.