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Woman testifies defendant was driving when girls were hit

A Severn woman broke down in tears several times Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court as she testified that her boyfriend was driving the 2001 Lincoln that struck and killed two teenagers on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard last June. She said she switched seats in the car with him before they were stopped by police later that night.

Kendra Myles spent an hour on the stand as a key witness in the trial of Reuben Dunn, 29, who is charged with two counts of automobile manslaughter and one count each of driving under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident. The trial began Thursday with opening statements and prosecutors laying out their case.

Dunn's defense lawyer, James L. Rhodes, told the jury in his opening statement that prosecutors have "no physical evidence" that Dunn was driving and were relying entirely on Myles' testimony. Myles has pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and has received a suspended five-year sentence and probation in exchange for her testimony against Dunn.

Courtney Angeles, 16, and Emerald Smith, 17, who were walking to a friend's house, died at Maryland Shock Trauma Center shortly after the accident about 11:40 p.m. June 13. Baltimore Police Detective Patty Bauer, the accident investigator, testified that the car was traveling 42 to 50 miles per hour in a 35-mph zone, and that Angeles' body was thrown the farthest, 129 feet from the impact in the crosswalk.

Family and friends said the two girls had become close friends in kindergarten and grew up together about a block apart in the Southwest Baltimore neighborhood of Pigtown.

The mother of two sons with Dunn, Myles told the court how she looked up as they were passing through the West Pratt Street intersection, heading south on Martin Luther King, and saw the two teenagers.

"One girl reached to push the other girl away," said Myles, 27. "They hit the car and they hit the windshield. They hit hard. … I prayed they didn't die. I knew they were hurt bad."

Myles said Dunn stopped the car briefly shortly after hitting the girls but then kept driving. The two were originally headed home to Severn after helping her mother move furniture into her house on the east side of Baltimore.

"I said 'What are you doing?'" she testified. "He kept saying 'Oh my God.'"

After they drove off, Dunn asked her to switch seats with him "because I would get a lesser charge," Myles testified. "I said, 'All right.'"

About 30 minutes after the accident, Myles and Dunn were stopped by a Maryland Transportation Authority police officer near the rental car area at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Officer John Willis testified Thursday that he stopped the car because he saw both headlights were out.

He said that when he talked to Dunn, he noticed a "strong odor of alcohol. … He appeared to be intoxicated," Willis said. He said that when he was talking to Dunn outside the car, Dunn was "swaying."

"People who are under the influence or impaired tend to sway when they stand," Willis said. "They don't stand still."

Under questioning by Rhodes, Willis acknowledged that in his own notes and in two reports, one to the MTA and another to Bauer, he made no mention of Dunn appearing to be drunk. Willis said he did note that in a report he made about a month later, after talking with prosecutors.

Rhodes showed a 20-minute video of the traffic stop recorded by a camera mounted on the dashboard of Willis' patrol car. As he showed it, he asked Willis to indicate when he saw Dunn "swaying." Willis said the "swaying" was difficult or impossible to see because of the distance, the video quality and the camera angle.

Willis said the car was badly damaged — headlights smashed, front fenders damaged, side mirror snapped loose and "two impact craters" in the front windshield — and he asked Myles if she had been in an accident.

"She said she was," Willis said. "She didn't know what she hit." Willis said she told him she was "afraid to look back."

She told Willis she had been driving, and then hours later signed a statement that Bauer wrote, indicating she had been driving. But two days later, according to testimony, she went with a lawyer to talk with the state's attorney and changed her story.

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

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