Driver says she was drugged before fatal crash

Posted at 7:54 PM, Apr 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-05 00:09:50-04

HAMILTON, Ohio — The woman accused of driving under the influence and fatally striking a road worker in West Chester last spring said she was drugged without her knowledge at the time of the crash.

The trial began Monday for Michele Schuster, 24, who police said was high on Xanax when she crashed into a work truck on Cox Road. Four road workers were injured, one of whom, 24-year-old Amber Rooks, later died from her injuries. The other three workers survived the crash.

A tearful Schuster sat in Butler County Court of Common Pleas Monday, charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, as her attorney, Lawrence Hawkins, told the jury that Schuster had been drugged before taking to the road.

“She didn’t voluntarily take the Xanax,” he said in his opening statement. “She didn’t voluntarily get behind the wheel to drive under the influence.

“She was drugged.”

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Still Butler County Assistant Prosecutor Brad Burress described the crash as a “path of destruction in [Schuster’s] wake.”

According to Burress, Schuster was found unconscious in her vehicle at the time of the crash, but once conscious at the hospital later that day, screamed at hospital staff for more than an hour.

Schuster’s trial is expected to run for the next several days, and will include testimony from law enforcement on the scene, numerous witnesses, and Schuster herself will also take the stand, Hawkins said.