Daniel Greis said he prayed he wouldn't hit another car before crashing into Pollitt family

Driver blames another's road rage for five deaths

COVINGTON, Ky. – On the stand for the first time, Daniel Greis said he was praying he wouldn't crash into anyone as he speeded along Staffordsburg Road last October.

“You know, I was going fast and I can remember praying before it got to that point, ‘Please, God, don’t let nobody be over that hill. Don’t be over that hill,’”  Greis said Friday.

“That's what happened."

Greis appeared to tear up and said he takes some responsibility for the head-on crash that killed five members of the Pollitt family last year.

He said he didn't see the Pollitts' car over the hill until it was too late.

“Yes, I feel some responsibility because people died horribly and it was my car that hit them,” Greis testified.  “You have to have some responsibility. I hit that car. I didn’t see it, but I hit that car and those people didn’t have a chance.”

Greis denied he was drunk, high or racing. He tried to convince the jury that another driver's road rage was to blame.

Greis said he was scared as a Dodge truck kept speeding up and slowing down beside him on the two-lane road. In opening statements, Greis’ attorney claimed Greis was speeding to try to get away from another driver during a road-rage incident. He said the other driver wouldn’t let Greis pass him.

On cross examination, Rob Sanders, Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney, asked Greis why he didn’t just put on the brakes and stop.

Greis said he panicked.

Greis: "I gave it a lot of gas because I was trying to get ahead of him and, rrrrrrrr, here he goes right beside me and we keep accelerating up. I’m getting more scared. At one point, I look up and I can see maybe two football fields ahead of me. I can see there’s a spot where you can’t see over the hill."

Sanders: "You were going into a blind spot on a hill with 100% accelerator down. In that time, you said you had time to pray."

Greis: "In my mind, yeah.  I thought, 'Lord make sure nobody’s over that hill because he’s pushing me over the hill.'"

Police said Greis was going 86 mph when he swerved into the opposite lane and hit a car carrying Rodney Pollitt Jr., 26; Samantha Malohn, 27; and their three children, Hailieann, Brendan and Callie Pollitt. The children were 9, 8 and 6.

The Pollitt children - Hailieann, Brendan and Callie – with mother Samantha Malohn.

Greis admitted to smoking marijuana that morning, but he denied police claims that he was drunk and high when he hit the Pollitt's car on Oct. 26.

Greis said he smokes pot for back pain but doesn't smoke that much and does not get high.

"If I was high, I wouldn’t have drove," he testified.

Greis admitted drinking a double Maker’s Mark while playing golf that morning, but he said he didn’t feel impaired.

“I would not have drove if I felt any kind of effects. That’s not me. I don’t drive drunk,” he said.  “I just had a drink on the golf course."

Another witness testified that he played golf with Greis that morning and Greis was not impaired.

Greis’s wife, Tammy Greis, also testified that he smoked marijuana for back pain.

Nevertheless, Greis had a blood alcohol level of .089 and authorities found 3.6 grams of marijuana near him shortly after the crash, police said.  

Sanders got Greis to admit he had one more drink than he told police. And, Sanders questioned why Greis kept accelerating when he knew there was a blind hill coming up.

Sanders: “At that speed, you know that any car crash into another vehicle is going to be deadly, correct?”

Greis: “I knew it was going to be bad. “

Sanders: “And, if you had time to pray, isn’t it true that you had time to stop?”

Greis:  “The praying went in my mind in like a split second and the next split second we were at the top of that hill going over it. I didn’t have time to hit my brakes.”

The defense rested at the end of the day. Because the judge has a full docket on Monday, closing arguments and deliberations are scheduled for Tuesday.

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