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Ala. trooper on trial in fatal cruiser crash

Heath Moss, 33, is charged with two counts of criminally negligent homicide for the fatal 2011 crash

By Bayne Hughes
The Decatur Daily

ATHENS, Ala. — State trooper traffic homicide investigators testified Tuesday that Trooper Heath Moss was going between 106 and 120 mph before a wreck in 2011 that killed a Tanner couple.

The two investigators gave the only testimony in the second day of the trial, which began with Limestone County Circuit Court Judge Robert Baker rejecting the use of photos of the two victims' burned bodies.

District Attorney Brian Jones wanted to use the photos, but Baker denied permission, saying he might reconsider the matter later in the trial.

Moss, 33, is charged with two counts of criminally negligent homicide in the April 25, 2011, wreck that killed Jamie Lee Gossett, 31, and Sarah Lynn Gossett, 38, on Lucas Ferry Road.

Criminally negligent homicide is a misdemeanor with a punishment of up to one year in jail on each charge.

Cpl. John Singletary said a power train control module, also known as a "black box," on Moss' patrol car showed he was going 120 mph on Lucas Ferry Road, which has a 45 mph speed limit.

Cpl. Thomas Taylor Jr. supervised the wreck investigation. He testified that his analysis using a time and distance equation showed Moss was going a minimum of 106 mph three seconds before the wreck.

Moss, who was responding to a 4:30 p.m. wreck on Huntsville-Brownsferry Road with an injured child when the accident occurred, gave Taylor a written statement.

"I'm not sure how fast I was going, but I believe I was traveling 80 to 90 mph," Moss wrote.

Singletary said he was taught in training that there's no reason for a trooper to hurry to a wreck.

On the way to a wreck with injuries, Singletary said his trainer stopped at a convenience store, bought chips and flirted with the clerk.

"He said, 'The wreck will be there when you get there,' " Singletary said. "He said there's no reason to get to a wreck in a hurry."

Singletary said time usually isn't important because any injured parties have been removed from most wreck scenes when a trooper arrives.

"We don't administer first aid," Singletary said.

The Gossetts, who lived less than a mile from the crash site, were going to Tanner High School to pick up their child.

Taylor said troopers do not have a rule on how fast they can drive when responding to a call.

"It's up to their discretion," Taylor said.

Singletary said he believes Jamie Gossett was starting to turn left and stopped on Moyers Road when he saw Moss' vehicle with its flashing emergency lights approaching from behind. Both vehicles were traveling north.

Moss, in his statement, said he thought the Gossetts' vehicle was turning left in front of him, so he hit the brakes and attempted to go right.

After impact, the Gossetts' vehicle went 191 feet before flipping at the edge of a field. The vehicle caught fire and burned.

Singletary said Jamie Gossett "would have been making an illegal turn" if he had continued. He also said Gossett didn't pull to the right as required by law when an emergency vehicle approaches.

Moss' speed was down to 51.5 mph at impact, Singletary said.

Singletary and Taylor said they believe Moss would have avoided a wreck if he had continued passing on the left.

In his statement, Moss wrote that he went to help the Gossetts, but the door was jammed and flames were beginning to show. He said he thought he heard the gas line rupture.

Baker ended the trial early Tuesday after receiving a personal call about a family member in surgery.

The prosecution is expected to continue its case when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. today.

Copyright 2013 The Decatur Daily

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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