Can jurors in Thomas Stidhum trial keep crashes straight?

Prosecution introduces 100-mph chase before close
Posted at 12:53 AM, May 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-05 00:53:50-04

CINCINNATI – Two police officers testified Thursday about Thomas Stidhum’s 100-mph chase and crash on Ronald Reagan Highway in 2015, but his attorney reminded the jury that’s not what he’s on trial for.

Stidhum is on trial for running over and killing Cathy Chatfield as she ran on a sidewalk during the Seven Hills Run/Walk the following month. But prosecutors have been hamstrung throughout the trial by a lack of evidence.

Instead, on the final day of testimony, they tried to build a case that Stidhum is a repeat hit-and-run offender. They showed the jury photos of the wreckage of a red Camaro, the rental car that  Stidhum admits crashing on Ronald Reagan on Nov. 21 - 15 days before he’s accused of hitting Chatfield on Dorchester Avenue in Mt. Auburn.

It made for good theater on the day both sides rested their case.

Springfield Township Officer William Summe testified that he clocked the red Camaro at more than 90 mph where the posted speed is 60 mph.

Summe said he hit the gas to try to catch the Camaro but it was fruitless.

“I’m not gaining on him. He’s pulling away from me. I looked down and I was doing 110 mph, at which point I thought this was not safe for anyone involved, I’m going to shut it down,” Summe said.

Minutes after stopping the chase, Summe said he found that red Camaro crashed head-on into a pickup truck.

"Folks on the scene were saying the gentleman driving the Camaro got out and ran,” Summe said.

The driver was described as a young black male wearing all red and missing a shoe. The missing shoe had gotten stuck under the gas pedal as a result of the crash, police said.

Mount Healthy police then began to help in the search for the driver, and Officer Alan Fath said he quickly spotted him.

“I advised him to stop. He continued to run, so I deployed a Taser,” Fath testified.

At first, that didn’t stop Stidhum, but he was subdued and arrested.

When it was her turn, Stidhum’s lawyer, MJ Hugan,  argued that incident has nothing to do with the prosecution's claims of speeding and reckless driving in the crash that killed Chatfield on Dec. 5.

Prosecutors charged that Stidhum drove his Chrysler 300 at 60 mph, lost control and jumped the curb, hitting Chatfield. After crashing into a wall. Stidhum got out, tried to remove the license plates, and took off running, according to prosecutors

“No one noticed anything or hear anything like squealing tires as someone was coming up the hill,” Hugan told the jury. “The only noise that anyone testified to was the boom of the crash.”

Both sides make closing arguments Friday morning, then the jury will start deliberating.

As she has throughout the trial, Stidhum's attorney figures to pound home the facts that police said they lost tapes of witness interviews at the scene, and they can’t locate Moriah Johnson. Police said Johnson was riding with Stidhum at the time of the crash on Dorchester.

Stidhum testified Wednesday and claimed he not only wasn't driving, he wasn't there at all.

Stidhum is facing charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular homicide, failure to stop following an accident and tampering with evidence.