Collins trial: day one coverage


By Staff Report

Trial has begun for the second individual charged in a rollover vehicle crash that left a teenage boy dead earlier last year.

Lucas Collins, now 19-years-old, was formally charged in September of 2019 for his alleged involvement in the incident.

Thursday afternoon after nearly a year-and-a-half since Ryan Tullius lost his life, jury members would hear piece-by-piece, witness-by-witness the unfolding of events that occurred the evening of Saturday, April 6 early last year.

The trial began with Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John Litle delivering opening statements.

Litle started by describing how the group of teenagers, some friends, other acquaintances, found themselves in the 2001 Jeep Cherokee that particular night.

While looking to “have a good time,” as one witness would later recall, the group grew as each next teen was picked up until arriving at Jakob Moore’s house in Dresden.

Traveling around the small village and then onto State Route 60 towards Zanesville the quintet played their music, loudly, and made their way southward with Collins behind the wheel.

According to multiple occupants, who testified Thursday in court, Collins then said he would let someone else drive the vehicle.

While witnesses disagree on certain facts of the unfolding events, the consensus is that Moore agreed and Collins pulled over along SR-60 to switch seats with his front-seat passenger.

In his agreement, Litle said that Collins allowed Moore to operate his vehicle, knowing that Moore only possessed a learner’s permit, which included driving restrictions.

Those restrictions include only driving a vehicle with either a parent or legal guardian, a driving instructor or a person 21-years-of-age or older.

As said by Litle and restated by at least one witness/occupant, Moore would soon turn 16 and be eligible to receive his driver’s license, but did not have it at the time of the crash.

Moore then began driving southbound along SR-60.

Witnesses disagree if the music was turned up or turned down when he took over driving, but all agree music was loudly playing in the vehicle.

The Jeep then began to accelerate, likely above the posted 55 mile-per-hour speed limit for that section of roadway, based upon occupant testimony, but an exact speed could not be agreed upon.

As the vehicle traveled along, Tullius began to place himself outside the vehicle, placing his butt on the edge of the window, hands on the hood of the Jeep, legs positioned inward.

Conflicting testimony makes it unclear if either Moore or Collins knew of Tullius’s position outside the vehicle, as it traveled along a stretch of roadway with an upcoming sharp turn.

Occupants also disagree on the communications and physical interactions between Moore and Collins, but what is clear is that Moore began to “rock the wheel,” either slightly or aggressively, whichever, the resulting action sent the vehicle nearly off the roadway.

Moore than attempted to steer the vehicle back onto the roadway and overcorrected resulting in the Jeep to roll multiple times, ejecting Tullius onto the roadway.

For his part in the fatal crash, Collins was charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony of the third degree, and wrongful entrustment of a motor vehicle, an unclassified misdemeanor.

According to Litle as he spoke to the jury during his opening statements, the mere act of allowing Moore to use his vehicle doesn’t set the threshold for legal charges, as might be the case if someone lent their vehicle and that person was involved in a collision that resulted in a death.

Litle explained that Collins was an active participant in both the lending of the vehicle, while knowing the illegality of such an act, and by his actions inside the vehicle, which include allegedly instructing Moore to shake the wheel.

“The law creates roadblocks to prevent this,” said Litle as he referred to allowing Moore to drive his vehicle while not having an unrestricted license.

Collin’s defense attorney’s Brian Joslyn and Tamas Tabor then began their opening statements.

While looking around the courtroom Joslyn called the entire situation an extremely sad circumstance, one in which left a grieving family seeking answers, which he said are unlikely to be found in a criminal trial.

Joslyn called the criminal filings by the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office “emotional” in nature and not set with proper legal objectivity.

“It’s not very often in a criminal case we can agree on a majority of the facts,” said Joslyn as he explained the true question of the case was in the legal theory of caution, and Collin’s failure to act in stopping Moore from his erratic behavior behind the wheel.

As Joslyn told members of the jury, at the time of the crash Moore had obtained his learner’s permit, had completed driving school and had experience driving behind the wheel.

Collin’s attorney ended his opening statement by citing the fact that two police investigators assigned to the case didn’t think his client should have been charged, calling it a freak but heartbreaking tragedy.

Jakob Moore was called as the state’s first witness.

Moore, who is currently 17-years-old, was the only other individual who was charged by prosecutors in the death of Tullius.

Due to his age, his case was adjudicated in the juvenile division, where all records and court proceedings are concealed from the public.

Later last year Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Tom McCarty had said the at-the-time unidentified teen was charged with one second-degree felony count of aggravated vehicular homicide and two minor misdemeanor charges of reckless operation and a temporary instruction permit violation.

His case has since been concluded after serving time in the Muskingum County Juvenile Detention Facility following a plea agreement which included in part his participation in the Collins’s trial.

According to Moore, Collins asked him if he wanted to drive the vehicle to which Moore agreed.

Moore also alleges everyone was wearing their seatbelts inside the vehicle besides Tullius and that Collins had told him to swerve the vehicle before the crash.

During testimony, Moore said that he was concentrating on driving and did not see Tullius hanging out the back of the vehicle.

Moore, like many of the upcoming occupants/witnesses, originally lied to police about the true cause of the crash, telling them that Collins was driving and that he swerved to avoid an animal in the roadway.

All those who testified said the original idea to lie about who was driving was Collins, but the general consensus was that it was to protect Moore and Tullius from any trouble.

After a short recess the second witness, Troy Baldwin was called to the stand.

Baldwin was traveling north along SR-60 when he observed the crash, seeing what at-the-time he believed was an object flung from the vehicle.

He collaborated that he observed two males and two females exit the vehicle once it stopped rolling.

The third witness, Marly Warner, was then called to the stand.

The now 18-year-old was positioned on the back right seat in the jeep and said it was her first time meeting the three boys, though she was friends with the other female teenage occupant.

According to Warner the plan for the night was to party, smoke marijuana and consume alcohol, however, as later testimony would clarify, the teens were unable to secure either.

Warner’s testimony varied from the other’s as she indicated she observed Collins tap Moore’s shoulder as he allegedly whispered to Moore to shake the steering wheel.

On cross-examination, Warner admitted that as was the case with the other occupants, she originally lied to police on three separate occasions, each time telling more of the truth.

Her testimony as to Collins physically touching Moore and whispering to him was called into question by defense attorney Tabor who stated that those particular details were not in any of the three previous statements she made to police.

Warner also added that it was her opinion that Moore wouldn’t have swerved the vehicle without Collins’s approval, however, she admitted she had no factual reason to believe that, just that it was her opinion, as she was not well acquainted with them.

Ultimately, Warner told her father of the true cause of the crash and about the groups plan to blame it on an animal in the roadway.

He then encouraged her to reach out to the police, which forced the other occupants to admit the details of the crash including who was really driving at the time of the crash.

As the defense would do with both female occupants, Tabor asked if she could have tired to stopped Tullius from placing his body outside the vehicle and if she was ever under any criminal investigation for not doing so, to which Warner relied negative to both.

The fourth and fifth witnesses were Jesse McCort and Hannah Birkhimer, who while testified separately, were traveling together when they witnessed the crash.

Birkhimer was driving their vehicle when the couple came upon the scene observing the Jeep mid-roll before it ultimately stopped.

According to McCort, Collins was very upset and crying, something other witnesses also said they observed.

McCort said he turned the Jeep off as his girlfriend went to the location were Tullius’s body was laying to see if she could assist.

The sixth witness was Kyla Dillon, a now 15-year-old who was seated in the rear middle seat.

Dillon said the group had tried to find marijuana, but was unsuccessful and decided to continue driving around.

She confirmed what other occupants were saying, that there was loud music playing and that all but one of the windows were down in the Jeep.

Allegedly Collins offered everyone in the vehicle the chance to drive, but only Moore took him up on it as his 16 birthday was in a few days.

She confirmed that Collins was saying something to Moore, as she could see his lips moving, but that she was unable to hear what he said, but she didn’t observe Collins touch Moore as Warner had indicated.

Dillon described Tullius as a funny kid, someone who liked to mess around, describing his behavior in the vehicle the night of the crash.

She also confirmed that none of the three backseat occupants were wearing their seatbelts.

The seventh witness was Chastity Smith who was housesitting and observed the entire crash occur from the home’s garage.

Smith said she saw the vehicle swerve and rollover Tullius’s body before he was thrown from the Jeep.

She also was one of the individuals at the scene who called 911 and the recording was played in court.

The eighth and final witness for the day was Muskingum County Sheriff’s Deputy Tyler Patterson, who at the time of the crash was an officer with the Frazeysburg Police Department.

Patterson said he was patroling Frazeysburg when he noticed on his Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) that a severe injury accident had just occurred and he dispatched himself to the scene, being the first officer to arrive.

The officer had a body camera on his person and footage from the camera was played in court, which showed the emotional state of the occupants and the original location of the Jeep before it was moved for the squad to transport Tullius to the hospital.

All other occupants, received minor injuries, though they were all checked out by medical staff at Genesis Hospital.

Trial is scheduled to resume Friday morning at 9 a.m. in the main courtroom of the Muskingum County Courthouse.

Editors note: Coverage of the jury selection process is not included in this article as the media and families of both Collins and Tullius were not allowed to observe. Images of witnesses, while they were testifying, are also not included as per request by Judge Mark Fleegle.