This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo • A Utah County woman has been ordered to stand trial for allegedly driving drunk when she hit a tree in Provo last month, causing the death of a 4-month-old passenger.
Chelsea Fuller, 29, of Orem, pleaded not guilty in 4th District Court to charges of second-degree felony automobile homicide, third-degree felony driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and failure to use a child restraint, an infraction.
As Fuller hit the tree and rolled her SUV, 38-year-old Susanne McClellan, who is also facing charges, held her infant daughter in her arms in the backseat of the car.
The baby, 4-month-old Brylee McClellan, died from injuries suffered in the Aug. 4 crash.
Provo police Officer Robert Campbell, who was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene of the 4 a.m. crash, testified at a Tuesday preliminary hearing that it is a case he "will never forget."
The scene, near 800 North on Oakmont Lane, was "eerily silent," and there was "a lot of blood."
Officers couldn't get into the car through the doors or windows, Campbell said, so they had to break the windshield to get to the victims. Brylee was pulled out first by another officer, Campbell said, and was "immediately" taken to medical personnel. About four hours later, Campbell got the call that she had died at Primary Children's Hospital, charges state.
"The infant suffered massive head trauma, neck and spinal cord trauma and broken bones in her skull, neck and ribs," prosecutors wrote in charging documents.
Fuller was the second person extracted from the vehicle, Campbell said. He noticed she was "wobbly," having a hard time standing on her own and smelled strongly of alcohol.
She told him she had been driving and that "we might have been drinking," Campbell testified.
Later when Campbell who has special training in DUI detection interviewed Fuller, he noticed her eyes were dilated and her speech was "very slow" and "slurred."
Campbell ordered a blood, breath and urine test on Fuller, but conducted the breath test himself at 5:51 a.m., which showed her blood-alcohol content to be 0.233 nearly three times the legal limit to drive.
About an hour later, Fuller's blood was taken, which showed her blood-alcohol content to be 0.19.
Fuller said she had been driving McClellan and her child home, Campbell recalled, and "next thing she knew they were upside-down." Both women had been drinking alcohol, according to charges, and Fuller had also taken Citalpram, Alprazolam and Ambien.
McClellan initially told investigating officers that her baby had been in a car seat and that she "didn't know who was driving," according to charges, but once she learned her baby had died, she admitted that she knew Fuller was drunk when she got in the car and that the baby was not properly restrained. No one in the car was wearing seat belts, Campbell said Tuesday.
McClellan was present in the audience Tuesday for Fuller's hearing and grew emotional when her daughter was mentioned.
"My daughter was amazing," she said after the hearing.
While McClellan suffered "facial lacerations, broken bones and skull fractures," Campbell said, Fuller had only minor injuries and was released from medical care at the scene.
The the crash occurred on a "tight curve" in a residential neighborhood, Campbell testified, and the speed limits there are fairly low. Fuller's second-degree felony charge carries a potential punishment of up to 15 years in prison. The third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison. A pretrial conference for Fuller was set for Oct. 11.
McClellan, who is charged with class A misdemeanor negligent homicide and third-degree felony obstructing justice, waived her preliminary hearing on Tuesday. An arraignment for McClellan is scheduled for Oct. 18.