Search Warrant Served On Driver In Route 50 Death

By
Susan Tebben - Athens Messenger staff reporter

Dateline
Updated Fri, Jan 3, 2014 10:09 am

Investigators obtained a search warrant for information on the cell phone of the driver of a truck from which a man fell Nov. 1 and later died, according to Athens County Common Pleas Court records.

An affidavit to obtain the warrant describes the alleged actions and statements of the driver, 19-year-old Thomas Jordan of Coolville, after the incident.

The warrant was executed on Nov. 5, but records did not become public until Dec. 31, when they became part of the court journal.

According to previous reporting by The Messenger, Jordan told investigators from the State Highway Patrol he had been driving the two-door truck at about 1:30 a.m. Nov. 1 when the incident occurred. Root had been drinking that night and Jordan said he had been driving about 65 miles per hour when Root decided he was “going to do something crazy.”

Root then opened the passenger door and dangled his feet out, according to Jordan’s initial report to the highway patrol. The handle of the passenger door broke off and Root fell onto the pavement.

Another driver found Root lying on the side of the road with severe injuries. He was flown by medical helicopter to Ohio State University Medical Center, where he died Nov. 11.

Jordan told investigators that he turned around to come back to the scene, but saw some other cars stopped, according to the affidavit.

“Mr. Jordan said he was very scared, nervous and that he could not think straight,” State Highway Patrol Trooper Brian Spackey wrote in the search warrant affidavit. “Mr. Jordan said he was on scene at the same time as law enforcement, but failed to speak with the officers on scene about the incident.”

He contacted the Athens post of the highway patrol the next day, according to the affidavit.

He drove the vehicle to the Athens highway patrol post and allowed troopers to photograph it. Jordan allegedly told troopers he attempted to repair the passenger side door with drywall screws, the affidavit states.

Investigators are trying to find out where Jordan was when the incident occurred, Lt. George Harlow, commander of the Athens post of the State Highway Patrol, told The Messenger on Thursday.

The search warrant requested call history, text messages, incoming and outgoing phone calls, photographs, geolocation data and any other information stored on Jordan’s phone.

“We’re looking for evidence that would indicate what (Jordan) was doing at the time of the incident or immediately thereafter,” Harlow told The Messenger.

According to the search warrant affidavit, investigators wanted to determine if the phone contained evidence of the criminal offenses of failure to report and accident and tampering with evidence.

The data was retrieved and sent to a lab at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation for analysis, Harlow said.

The case has been turned over to the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said the case is still under investigation and they, too, are awaiting results of evidence tests to decide if charges are warranted.

During the initial investigation, Blackburn told the Messenger that Root’s death could impact the level of any potential charge.

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