LISBON — First he didn’t know the location of his truck, then he said he struck a mailbox, months later he said he ran over the bike after someone else ran over the boy.
These were the stories prosecutors said Donald E. White spun trying to get out of the fatal accident they say he caused last fall along state Route 164 outside Columbiana. Witnesses testified Tuesday afternoon about hearing those claims from White.
“On Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, this defendant left 13-year-old Aidan Wollman to die on the side of the road,” Columbiana County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Ryan Weikart said during opening statements in White’s jury trial.
He said White’s truck hit him and his bicycle with such force that the boy landed 60 feet from the point of impact, his bicycle left with a bent rim and heavy damage. Pieces of broken headlight, grill and glass from the truck laid all around the scene.
“The defendant never stopped, the defendant never slowed down,” Weikart said.
A jury of five women and seven men selected Tuesday morning will ultimately decide the truth about what happened that night and whether White is to blame. Two alternates were also selected to hear the testimony, just in case something happens to one of the twelve during the course of the trial.
The charges against White, 65, state Route 164, Salineville, include aggravated vehicular homicide, a third-degree felony, two charges of failure to stop after an accident, one a second-degree felony and the other a third-degree felony, and possession of cocaine, a fifth-degree felony. The first three counts deal directly with his alleged actions related to the accident. The drug charge stems from his alleged possession of cocaine the next day at his residence.
During his opening statement, Weikart gave an overview of the evidence and what it will show during the trial, such as the damage to the grill and headlight of White’s 1987 Chevy Silverado that matched pieces left behind at the scene of the crash.
One of the headlight pieces at the crash contained a serial number that matched a late 80s model Chevy Silverado, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper William Kanters. Later that night, Kanters found a disabled vehicle, an older Chevy Silverado, two to three miles from the crash scene near state Route 344. He identified the truck in photos that were then shown to jurors. The plate came back to White.
Weikart also noted that the friend who was riding bicycles with Aidan saw him get hit by the truck, which Kanters said the boy described as an older model white truck, possibly a Dodge. Kanters said White’s truck had very light blue accents.
Weikart also reviewed the elements of each charge with jurors, saying he had a duty to stop and to call police. He did neither. He also likely knew that someone was dead after the collision and still did nothing to notify anyone. As for the aggravated vehicular homicide charge, he said “you don’t have to mean to do it.” The recklessness created an unjustifiable risk.
After the accident, White pulled his wife and family into the situation, too. He abandoned the truck and had his son pick him up, then he had his wife take him to Youngstown so he could buy cocaine, Weikart said. Initially claiming he didn’t know where his truck was, Kanters said White then said he thought he struck a mailbox.
White’s defense attorney, James Wise, asked jurors to keep an open mind until they hear all the evidence. He said sympathy doesn’t make the elements proven.
“The death of a child is a horrible tragedy,” Wise said, saying the proof has to come from the witness stand, not from the attorneys.
During his opening statement, he mentioned the fact that the accident occurred at 9 p.m. in the dark.
“Can you anticipate a kid riding a bicycle at 9 p.m. at night in the dark?” he asked.
During cross-examination of Kanters, he asked what kind of clothing the victim was wearing. He said a black hooded sweatshirt and multi-colored sweatpants. He also asked if there was any damage to the windshield of the truck and was told no.
Assistant Prosecutor Steve Yacovone did the questioning of the witnesses, including the second witness of the day, OSHP Trooper Joshua Yeager of the Lisbon post, who arrived at the scene just after Kanters and started trying to render aid to Aidan, who was unresponsive, had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. He continued chest compressions until EMS arrived. After that he checked the area for any cameras and found none that were functional. He interviewed the other boy who said the truck had some type of bars on the back, swerved around him and then ran off the road and struck Aidan. The bicycles had reflectors, but no lights. Wise had him look at the photos of the truck and asked if there were any bars on the back. He said no, but then Yacovone asked him to describe the back of the truck, which Yeager said had a missing tailgate and a strap across the back.
Yeager responded to the White residence to ask about the abandoned truck, but no one was home the first time. White’s phone was pinged and was shown to be coming back from Youngstown, so he returned a second time. That’s when White’s wife came out and said they believed the truck was stolen. White said he didn’t know where the truck was and appeared quiet and calm after being told about the accident and the belief that his truck was involved.
Both he and his wife were read their rights. He was placed in the cruiser and Yeager questioned her further and she appeared nervous and fidgety. She said her husband was at his nephew’s all day and she picked him up. She also said the keys were kept in the unlocked truck and that her husband told her to say he was at the nephew’s house, that she picked him up and that he hit a mailbox. She also said she drove him to Youngstown to buy crack.
During a search of White’s residence, the keys to the truck were found in his coat pocket and suspected drugs were found, too.
The trial is continuing this morning.