Crime & Courts

Estimates of blood alcohol levels used in charges in crash that killed officer, son

Stacy Woodson, who died in a traffic accident while off-duty April 27, 2018. had been a Wichita police officer for 16 years. His 10-year-old son, Braeden, died later at the hospital.
Stacy Woodson, who died in a traffic accident while off-duty April 27, 2018. had been a Wichita police officer for 16 years. His 10-year-old son, Braeden, died later at the hospital. Wichita Police Department

A Sedgwick County judge ruled Friday that there’s enough evidence to take a suspected drunken driver to trial for a crash that killed an off-duty officer and his young son last spring.

James Dalrymple will be arraigned on two counts of involuntary manslaughter on June 25. He’s been free on bond since shortly after his arrest in connection with the April 27, 2018, collision with Wichita police officer Stacey Woodson’s motorcycle north of Goddard. Woodson died at the scene. His 10-year-old, Braeden Woodson, who was riding with his dad, died two days later at the hospital.

Dalrymple ’s truck and Woodson’s motorcycle collided after Dalrymple stopped at a stop sign posted on 167th at 21st Street and then pulled into the intersection, failing to yield the right of way to 21st Street traffic.

Prosecutors say Dalrymple drank alcohol in the afternoon or early evening, possibly at his son’s ballgame that day, and was impaired when he drove.

Defense attorney Kurt Kerns, during a preliminary hearing Friday, questioned the means authorities used to reach that conclusion.

Authorities had an emergency room nurse draw a vial of Dalrymple’s blood for testing for possible intoxication three hours after the collision. An affidavit released by the court last year said Dalrymple had a blood-alcohol concentration of .104 — above the legal limit to drive in Kansas of .08 — after the crash.

But that figure is based on a calculation that takes the actual alcohol level in the blood sample and factors in the time it takes for an average person to expel alcohol from their body, according to testimony Timothy Rohrig, director of the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center and its chief toxicologist.

The blood sample taken three hours after the crash had a blood-alcohol concentration of .044, Rohrig testified. Looking back over time and using the calculation, Dalrymple’s blood-alcohol concentration likely would’ve ranged from .089 to .119, Rohrig told the court, depending on the rate his body burned it off.

The average has been used in thousands of scientific studies, he added.

But there can be outliers.

Kerns seized on that fact, suggesting that when Rohrig estimated Dalrymple’s blood-alcohol concentration, he didn’t know exactly how fact Dalrymple’s metabolized the alcohol and whether he’d eaten. He also pointed out that that Dalrymple was crying after the crash — he pulled Braeden Woodson off of the road and sat with him until an ambulance arrived, according to another driver’s testimony — which could account for the watery, bloodshot eyes that a Sedgwick County deputy thought indicated possible intoxication.

That deputy, Joshua Collins, testified Friday that Dalrymple didn’t appear to be drunk when he saw him from a distance at the scene. But when he spoke to him, he noticed Dalrymple’s eyes and also smelled alcohol on him. Dalrymple also gave Collins differing stories about when and how much beer he’d consumed earlier that day, which raised suspicion, the deputy said.

Collins told the court that Dalrymple failed two of eight measures of one field sobriety test and three of four measures of a second test. When he asked for a blood sample, Dalrymple initially was hesitant but agreed, he testified.

But there is no video recording of Dalrymple’s interaction with Collins or the field sobriety test because Sedgwick County Sheriff’s deputies didn’t have body cameras at that time and Collins’ patrol car didn’t capture it because the car was blocking traffic, according to testimony.

In closing statements, Kerns argued that conclusion that Dalrymple was intoxicated is based on little more than a “soup” made up of some unknowns and a lot of assumptions.

“I’m arguing that if we are going to assume that we should assume things in his favor,” Kerns said.

Sedgwick County Assistant District Attorney Aaron Breitenbach disagreed, saying there was “more than sufficient evidence” to show Dalrymple’s blood-alcohol concentration was above .08.

Ultimately, Sedgwick County District Court Judge Jeff Syrios said the case could proceed to trial as charged. A date for that has not been set.