State rests in vehicular homicide case
By Melanie Ruberti
Emotions ran high as the State began its case against Humphrey Kisia Semo in a Troup County Superior Courtroom Tuesday morning.
Troup County Senior Assistant District Attorney Melissa Himes started her opening arguments by silently showing the jury a large photo of a mangled, unrecognizable pile of steel that was once a Toyota RAV 4.
Family members of the two men killed in that crash sobbed openly in the courtroom.
Semo was arrested for their deaths and charged with two counts of homicide by vehicle, serious injury by vehicle, possession of a schedule 1 controlled substance and reckless driving.
The man is accused of driving the wrong way in the northbound lanes of Interstate 185 and colliding head-on with an SUV the night of May 21, 2015.
The RAV 4 carrying Michael Dillon, his son, Kenrick Dillon and their cousin Kirkland Baker was no match for Semo’s mighty Toyota Sequoyah.
Michael Dillon, a backseat passenger in the RAV 4 and Baker who was driving the SUV both died at the scene.
Kenrick Dillon survived, but suffered massive injuries. He is now paralyzed from the waist down.
Semo was also hurt and flown to Grady hospital in Atlanta where doctors found a bag of a synthetic drug called “Spice” in the man’s underwear, Himes told the court.
Defense Attorney Jeff Shattuck said his client took full responsibility for driving the wrong way on the interstate – but insisted he did not do it maliciously.
“This was an accident. Mr. Semo did not intentionally get into the wrong direction of travel, there is no proof of it,” Shattuck told the jury. “He simply was in the wrong lane. He had his headlights on, he wasn’t swerving and he hit the RAV 4 head on. It was an accident. He made a mistake, he got on the interstate and went the wrong way at 9:50 p.m. at night.
“There was also no proof he was under the influence at the time of the accident,” Shattuck added.
Semo refused to allow the Georgia State Patrol to obtain a blood sample while at the hospital, according to the State.
ADA Himes emphasized the defendant’s reckless actions by playing multiple 911 calls from drivers also on the same stretch of interstate that night. Several of those same callers also took the witness stand.
Each one testified they spotted an SUV travelling south in the northbound lanes of traffic of I-185 around mile marker 42. Some drivers swerved out of the way to avoid hitting Semo’s Sequoyah; others witnessed the horrific crash that happened seconds later at mile marker 40.
Brandon Miller was behind the wheel of a tractor trailer when he encountered Semo on the interstate.
“I was coming out of the right lane, hauling about 80 thousand pounds of goods … I could see headlights coming towards me,” he testified. “…I was flashing my headlights at him (Semo) and hitting my air horn trying to get him out of the way.
“You could hear the collision (between the two SUVs) and I saw headlights go off into the tree line and into the woods.”
Derrick Hilley was in a work truck traveling behind the RAV 4 when it was hit head on by Semo’s Toyota Sequoyah. The driver swerved off the road to avoid hitting the two SUVs.
“The red car (RAV 4) went up in the air and came right over our service vehicle as we went into the ditch,” Hilley said.
Another witness testified he saw Semo’s SUV heading the wrong way down the off ramp at exit 46 – where I-185 intersects with Upper Big Springs Road.
GSP Trooper Jimmy Jones (now retired) worked the crash scene and believed Semo drove six miles in the wrong direction before colliding with the other SUV.
GSP Master Trooper Byron Mims was head of the accident investigation. He testified the RAV 4 was traveling close to 80 miles an hour when it was hit by Semo’s SUV.
“You have a lot of energy involved here … it’s like an explosion,” Mims said as a photo of the mangled SUV was displayed for the jury. “There’s really no front end …there’s no frame on it anymore. All that energy (of impact) traveled through both vehicles and all the occupants inside.”
Mims was able to retrieve data from a box inside the airbag of the RAV 4. He testified the driver hit the brakes less than a second before colliding with the Sequoyah.
Kenrick Dillon, 26, the sole survivor in the RAV 4 testified late Tuesday afternoon.
Dillon told the jury he, his father and cousin were travelling from Panama City, Florida to Atlanta to spend time with friends.
“It was supposed to be a fun weekend,” he said.
The trio stopped at a gas station and took a group photo.
Himes showed Dillon a copy of the picture.
“Does this picture depict how you looked that day?” she asked him.
Dillon paused and was overcome with emotion. He could not answer her question.
The man testified through tears he does not remember anything about the crash.
“The next thing I remember was seeing my friend Peter. I kept asking him, ‘What am I doing here?’ Then I realized Peter couldn’t hear me. I had a tube down my throat.”
Dillon said he suffered a brain bleed from the accident and was paralyzed. His injuries also included a broken arm, shoulder, jaw, 9 broken ribs, plus damage to his right ankle and spinal column.
Semo showed no emotion during the man’s testimony, but Dillon stared the man directly in the eye as he wheeled by the defense table and left the courtroom.
The state rested its case.
The defense did not call any witnesses and rested its case late Tuesday afternoon.
Semo did not take the stand.
Both sides will give their closing arguments to the jury Wednesday morning.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.