Jurors in the 59th state district court in Sherman spent part of the day Tuesday hearing about a wreck that started as a road-rage incident back in July of 2016. The woman hurt in the wreck suffered numerous fractures and endured more than 20 surgeries, including the amputation of her right leg, before being released from the hospital.
They could not hear from the woman herself because she died months after the wreck.
Jurors did get to hear from the man who was driving the car that she was in when it collided with a truck on State Highway 691 on July 29, 2016. He said he was forced off the road by another car after a road-rage incident miles away.
The driver of that car, James McGee said he picked up his girlfriend Jennifer Russell at their home in Perrin Estates to take her to a job interview at IHOP. He testified that as they drove along Loy Lake Road, a smaller white car, described in court as a Hyundai Tiburon, cut him off. The car then “brake checked him” by stomping on its brakes a number of times as they continued south on Loy Lake. He said it came to a head at the U.S. Highway 82 bridge when the two vehicles ended up side by side.
McGee testified that he got out of his car and spit at the driver of the other car, Tripp Bird. The two exchanged words. McGee got back in his car and Bird jumped out of his, McGee said. Bird then began hitting Bird or at least hitting at him as both vehicles sat at the stop light. McGee said the light turned and he pushed Bird, who McGee had never met before, away and took off. Bird did not follow and McGee, thinking the fight was over, took Russell to her job interview.
She got the job, but her joy at that would be short lived.
Others testified that when Bird left the scene of that altercation, he went to his apartment near the skating rink in Sherman and told his roommates about the incident. The young adults gathered there seemed to decided to find the person who had dissed Bird, so they loaded into two vehicles and headed out. They drove around the area where the incident happened and even stopped at a local bar when they saw a similar car. But it wasn’t the car they were looking for and one of the friends testified that they had given up and stopped at Sherman’s Town Center when Bird noticed McGee’s car back on Loy Lake Road. Bird in his Tiburon and Josh Halliburton in his truck, fell in behind the car, a white Crown Victoria.
What happened next is the crux of the case. Jurors must decide which version of the cause of the wreck they believe.
McGee said Bird and his buddies continued to pursue them as they headed back home. He said at one point Halliburton pulled up along side him and screamed at them. McGee took off and was headed to Grayson College where he thought there would be a lot of people and safety. But when they got to the college, McGee discovered the parking lot empty. At that point, he said Bird was trying to pass him.
McGee said Bird stomped his brakes and McGee had to hit his to keep from running into the Tiburon. McGee said he was afraid he would be boxed in between the Halliburton and Bird’s vehicles and he and Russell would be hurt. So, he tried to go around Bird. In doing so, he pulled into oncoming traffic and was struck by a large truck that was topping the hill.
The collision happened on Russell’s side of the car.
The man driving that truck, John Tillman, said he didn’t have time to stop by the time he saw the car coming at him. The Crown Victoria struck his truck and then began to flip. It flipped over the SUV behind Tillman and came to rest on the driver’s side on the other side of the road.
McGee said he pulled Russell out of the wreckage, but people in the vehicles with Bird and Halliburton said the young men stopped to check McGee or Russell or even came forward to tell police about what happened.
Bird’s attorney, Micah Belden said his client was not responsible for the road rage incident or the wreck saying McGee was the aggressor in the situation. Two young women who were with Halliburton and Bird testified that they didn’t see Bird trying to run the Crown Victoria off the road before the wreck. But they also both testified that the Haliburton and Bird asked them not to tell anyone about their part in the wreck.
Though Bird and Haliburton have each been indicted on a laundry list of charges including murder, Bird is only being tried this week on aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and accident involving a serous bodily injury charges.
Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Don Hoover said the D.A.’s Office will decide what to do about the other charges based on the outcome of this week’s trial.
Before the day ended Tuesday, Bird’s defense attorney had stipulated that Russell suffered serious bodily injury in the wreck.
The case continues Wednesday. Halliburton is set to be tried in January.