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Testimony fuels debate over Farries' actions during dragging

February 9, 2012
photo - Detra Farries at an earlier court hearing. Photo by The Gazette file
Detra Farries at an earlier court hearing. Photo by The Gazette file 

EDITORS NOTE: This report includes details from trial testimony that may be disturbing for readers.

Did she know?

Eyewitnesses at Detra Farries’ dragging-death trial added more fuel to the debate Thursday while recounting harrowing memories of the moments before Allen Lew Rose came free from a tow cable and slid to a stop.

To one woman who testified, there is no debate.

While chasing Farries with her daughter on Feb. 23, Patricia Robertson testified that she saw the fleeing woman run a stoplight at Wooten Road, speed right onto Platte Avenue and then swerve abruptly — as if trying to shake Rose loose.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Jann P. DuBois ordered the jury to disregard her comment about Farries’ intentions, citing court rules against speculating. But the allegation emerged again later in the day as others described the same turn.

Differences emerged in the accounts — some subtle, others significant.

Stopped at the same light, Nate Penno remembered what he called a rolling stop, or “California stop.” The driver of the car he was in, Mike Fay, affirmed that Farries slowed in her approach but said she went 15 to 20 mph through the red light.

From the vehicle behind Penno and Fay, Michael Lekics recalled the sport utility vehicle making a complete stop.

Rather than swerving, he testified that he saw Farries pull into the merge lane on eastbound Platte Avenue and then move to a left-turn lane, setting up for a turn onto Babcock Road.

Laura Easom, who also witnessed the turn, agreed that Farries came to a stop but said Farries’ “jerk” is what caused Rose to come loose: “It was a sharp turn. It was a jerk. That’s when Mr. Rose came off.”

Defense attorneys suggested that at least one witness, Robertson, changed her account after Rose’s death. They emphasized testimony that a little green car was following Farries at the time. They say Farries was driving fast because she believed Rose was following her in someone else’s car, and that she didn’t know he had been snagged by the cable and was being dragged.

The claim that Farries appeared to be trying to shake off Rose was repeated later in the day by Joseph Burman, who was thrust into an extraordinary position after pulling over to render assistance. As an off-duty Pueblo firefighter assessed Rose’s horrific dragging injuries, Burman cradled the dying man in his arms.

He recalled Rose telling him, “I was only doing my job.”

After breaking down into violent sobs, he said: “Have you seen horror movies, and you’re like, ‘it can’t be like that’? It is.”

Farries, 33, who normally watches testimony quietly, kept her head down and her shoulders hunched as Burman’s sobs filled an otherwise silent courtroom.

Prosecutors showed crisp video of Rose swinging behind Farries’ vehicle as she took a turn and wobbled in her lane on Wooten Road. For the first time, they also unfurled the tow cable — stretching it out to its full length of 49 feet.

After an effort to push inconsistencies to the forefront, Farries’ defense attorneys sought to discredit two men who testified that they were nearly hit by Farries at Hill Park Apartments as she sped away from an attempted towing.

Public defender Eydie Elkins pushed Matthew Morrow to admit that he approached lead prosecutor Jeff Lindsey in the hallway Wednesday and asked if he could help with a slate of felony charges against Morrow.

“That doesn’t mean I was asking for anything in particular,” he said.

Prosecutor Mike Ringle said Lindsey brought the exchange to the defense’s attention, and told Morrow he wouldn’t discuss the matter.

Morrow denied on the stand that the flailing cable ripped his jacket — leading Elkins to question if he had been exaggerating his part in the tragedy. The friend he was with, Jerry Flores, testified to numerous inconsistencies and repeatedly said Morrow’s jacket was ripped.

Morrow initially told police he could see Farries “smiling” as she drove toward him, but backed off the statement on the stand, saying she appeared to have had her mouth open.

Elkins hit a snag, though, when she mistakenly accused Morrow of concealing a prison stint in Missouri.

In fact, it was a different person with the same name and birth date.

Morrow went from red-faced to smiling: “ I’ve never been to prison. Ever.”

“In the future,” he added, “I wish to fish in the Missouri River, but that would be a negative.”

Rose, 35, had become entangled in a tow cable that came off Rose’s tow truck as Farries fled a towing. Farries is accused of three felonies alleging that she caused his death. She faces up to 24 years on one count and up to 12 on the others.

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