Columbus Teen Pleads Not Guilty to Tampering with Evidence After Fatal Crash
I recently wrote about the fatal drunk driving crash that tragically killed Columbus high school senior Hannah Gilmer, 16. Now, one of the teens who witnessed the crash has plead not guilty to charges of evidence tampering after he reportedly removed alcohol from the scene of the accident according to WTVM.com.
Daniel Hughes Messengale, 17, and Austin Lott, 18, were there the night that Hannah Gilmer died after her boyfriend Clayton Qualls drove drunk and lost control of her 2006 Toyota Scion. According to evidence provided at a hearing in Recorder’s Court, Lott removed alcohol from the scene of the accident and threw it over a nearby fence into a neighboring yard.
Messengale and Lott were driving in other vehicles ahead of Qualls and Gilmer on the night that Gilmer died. They witnessed Qualls lose control of the car on County Line Road and immediately came to the scene of the accident. Lott testified that Qualls asked him to get rid of a cooler full of beer that was in the car.
In court on Friday Lott initially plead guilty to the charges, but then his father quickly interrupted and said his son had not had adequate legal counsel. The plea was changed to not guilty. Messengale was not present at the hearing and had already been released on bond. Qualls has been charged with vehicular homicide and DUI.
Hannah Gilmer’s death was a truly devastating loss, and this just compounds the tragedy of the situation. Certainly, these teens made very poor choices that night, both in driving drunk and then allegedly trying to hide the evidence.