No evidence driver accused of murder tried to avoid crash
WAILUKU — An investigation showed no evidence that a woman tried to avoid a collision while allegedly driving at least 127 mph uphill on Haleakala Highway and running a red light before a fatal crash, a deputy prosecutor said Tuesday.
Ashley Wellman, 34, of Waiehu has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and excessive speeding in the Oct. 8, 2016, collision that killed two women in another vehicle.
During a bail hearing Tuesday, Wellman asked that her $1 million bail be reduced to $20,000.
Wellman has no prior criminal history and is under mental health treatment that includes therapy twice a week and medication, said Deputy Public Defender Danielle Sears. She said two of the medications Wellman has been taking are not available at the Maui Community Correctional Center.
Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Martin opposed any reduction in bail.
If convicted of the first-degree murder charge, which can be brought when more than one person is killed, Wellman faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Martin said. That made Wellman “a serious risk to flee,” he said.
The indictment alleges that Wellman “intentionally or knowingly” caused the deaths of the victims.
“The facts in this case as alleged do not involve impairment,” Martin said.
According to the evidence presented to the grand jury that indicted Wellman, she was driving up Haleakala Highway at a minimum speed of 127 mph at the time of the crash, Martin said.
“There’s absolutely no evidence of avoidance maneuvers or any braking before she knowingly ran a red light, plowing into a vehicle operated and occupied by the two victims in this case,” Martin said.
Police said the crash occurred at 10:26 a.m. when the silver Nissan sedan driven by Wellman ran the red light and broadsided a white Toyota truck that was turning left onto the highway from Makani Road. After hitting the truck, the sedan crossed the centerline and hit a vehicle stopped in traffic, which then hit the vehicle stopped behind it, police said.
Debra Wylie, a 63-year-old Pukalani resident who was driving the truck, and her passenger, 57-year-old Traci Winegarner of Pukalani, died at the scene of the crash.
“The collision is described as absolutely devastating,” Martin said.
He said an explosion “launched the engine in the victims’ vehicle 15 to 20 feet in the air.”
Martin said Wellman was “well aware of the fact that operating her vehicle at that speed, knowingly running that red light, was likely to result in the deaths of the two victims.”
Second Circuit Judge Peter Cahill kept Wellman’s bail at $1 million.
Sears said the defense would be asking that Wellman be evaluated for her mental fitness to proceed in the case.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.