AUBURN - Katelynne Moore survived being hit by a car on Mother’s Day 2020 to sit through the trial and pronouncement of guilty for the driver who failed to render aid.
A tearful Dustin Pierce testified that he is sorry for what happened, but maintained that he did not see what he hit as he traveled toward the setting sun on Detour Road on the southern edge of Auburn.
Judge Julie Smith disagreed.
She said Pierce’s account of what happened is not credible in light of Sheriff Brent Lottman’s accident reconstruction that indicated that Moore was pushed up on the car’s hood before hitting the windshield.
Pierce said he had been texting while driving and testified that the collision caused him to look up. He testified that he saw nothing.
Nemaha County Attorney Louie Ligouri said, based on the accident reconstruction and Pierce’s estimate that he was not exceeding the speed limit, the car traveled over 60 feet before Moore was cast into the roadside ditch.
Ligouri: “He didn’t stop to render aid. His excuse is he didn’t see anything … what he saw was a woman.”
He said the law requires assistance if there was an accident that would lead a reasonably prudent person to investigate.
He said a 14-year-old boy riding his bicycle noticed eyeglasses on the roadway and investigated to find Moore and saved her life by alerting emergency responders. Ligouri said Pierce should have done at least as much as the boy did, but instead left Moore to die.
After arriving by medical helicopter at a Lincoln trauma center, Moore was placed on the highest level of critical care. She had suffered brain damage so severe that her brain was no longer able to provide basic life support.
She was in intensive care for 30 days and another month in medical rehabilitation before she began to recognize her pandemic visitors.
Judge Smith noted the doctrine of willful blindness, but said Pierce had actual knowledge.
Smith: “As far as knowledge, you knew you hit a person and took no action to determine who you struck.”
She said Pierce was not a credible witness because he explained damage to his Ford Fusion to his girlfriend and her sister by saying he hit a deer on Highway 136 near the Peru corner.
The judge said there was no reason for him to lie about where the accident occurred, unless he knew he had a hit a person. She also noted that he covered the windows of his garage in an attempt to hide the car.
She set sentencing on July 28.
Pierce took the stand to testify before conclusion of the trial.
He said he would’ve stopped and dialed 911 had he known he hit a person.
The exact sequence of events was disputed at trial, but Pierce said that after the accident, he stopped at SunMart and then went to Casey’s to get sandwiches before going home.
Defense Attorney Christopher Kaz Long said these are not the actions of person who is trying to hide a car after an accident.
Long: “We are not here to judge his morals. We’re here to judge if the state can prove he did that.”
Long said Pierce's ex-girlfriend testified that Pierce acted normally that night, but became very upset the following day when he received a phone call saying that a woman had been hit on Detour Road.
In cross examination, Pierce struggled with multiple questions asked by Ligouri to the point that he claimed he did not remember anything.
Under cross examination, Pierce acknowledged that he lied about hitting a deer and lied about where the accident happened.
A tearful Pierce said “I’m sorry. I feel terrible for my actions” before his lawyer interrupted to ask for a recess.
Judge Smith said once a defendant takes the stand it is understood that he has waived his right not testify.
Moore was released from medical rehabilitation after three months and spent Mother’s Day 2021 with her two children.