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Jury shown surveillance video of ice cream crash

5:59 PM, Feb 10, 2010   |    comments
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Kudlis was trying to get her son some ice cream at an Aurora Baskin-Robbins back in September 2008 when the wreckage of a major traffic accident on South Havana Street came flying into the store.

Little Marten Kudlis was simply waiting for his mom at a nearby table inside the store when a large steel plate from an outdoor electrical box came flying in, hitting him in his neck.

Jurors later watched surveillance video showing the moments right before the crash.

Prosecutors have charged Francis M. Hernandez with, among other things, child abuse and vehicular homicide stemming from the crash at Havana and East Mississippi Avenue. Hernandez, an illegal immigrant believed to be from Guatemala, sat quietly in the Arapahoe County courtroom as Enely Kudlis recounted the events of that tragic night.

On Wednesday, the highly-anticipated trial got going in earnest with opening statements.

Prosecutor Rich Orman told the freshly-assembled jury that the evidence would prove Hernandez was recklessly speeding southbound on Havana at more than 80 mph in a 40 mph zone in a Chevrolet Suburban when he struck a northbound truck just outside of the Baskin-Robbins.

"It was the defendant's DNA, and nobody else's, on the driver's side airbag of the Chevrolet Suburban," he said.

Orman also described the chaos inside the Baskin-Robbins immediately after the crash.

"It seems as if the world explodes," he told the jury. "The lights go out, there is a loud crashing sound.... There is chaos and there is confusion.... And then there is a voice crying out, 'Where's my son? Where's my son?'"

The surveillance video got distorted and then went black as the power went out. Kudlis testified she could feel an electrical shock moving through her.

"Everything was flying," she said. "I remember looking for [Marten], and he wasn't sitting there. There was nothing at all. The table wasn't even there."

She found her son outside the shop on the sidewalk, the steel casing of the transformer on top of him, blood coming from a deep gash across his neck. She said she lifted the casing and began resuscitation efforts when a female bystander took over.

"I kept asking, `Is he breathing?' At first she said yes. Then later, she wouldn't answer me when I asked," Kudlis testified, wiping away tears. The other child sitting at the table with Marten was not seriously injured.

Kudlis testified that she came home from work that day and had dinner before taking Marten and another child to a park then stopping at the ice cream shop.

On the witness stand, she briefly clutched a plastic bag containing the black tennis shoes her son was wearing that night. The bag was handed to her by prosecutor Karen Pearson during questioning.

Two women inside the truck, Patricia Guntharp and Debra Serecky, were also killed. Guntharp was driving the truck, apparently trying to make a left-hand turn into a fast food restaurant, when she was hit.

Defense attorney David Lipka told the jury that the presence of "a lot of methamphetamine" in Guntharp's system at the time of her death was enough to cast doubt on the case itself.

"[Guntharp] had just ingested a lot of methamphetamine," he told the jury. An autopsy confirmed the presence of meth in her system.

Orman said drivers making left turns don't assume the oncoming vehicle is traveling more than twice the speed limit.

"What you will not hear is any evidence of bad driving on (Guntharp's) part," Orman said.

Lipka told the jury that without Guntharp's "erratic and unforeseeable left-hand turn well before the intersection [of Havana and Mississippi]" the death of Kudlis would not have occurred.

Lipka also told the jury police incorrectly assumed Hernandez was driving, citing eyewitness accounts of two people running from the scene.

The Kudlises have filed a civil lawsuit alleging Hernandez and Guntharp were both negligent in their driving. Hernandez's lawyer noted the lawsuit during cross-examination.

Prosecutor Pearson later asked, "What would you rather have? The money or your son?"

"My son," Kudlis answered.

Hernandez's illegal immigrant status was not brought up during opening statements, as expected. The crash itself had become an intensely political issue because of the revelation made early on during the investigation.

The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)

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