Crime & Courts

Driver charged in fatal collision was going 71 in 35-mph zone prior to impact, affidavit says

Zachary Lee Brown has been charged with multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated battery in connection with a collision that killed a pregnant woman in August.
Zachary Lee Brown has been charged with multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated battery in connection with a collision that killed a pregnant woman in August. Sedgwick County Jail

An SUV weaved around traffic and was traveling at more than twice the posted speed limit in the seconds before it slammed into a car carrying a pregnant woman and her family, according to an affidavit outlining details of the collision that killed Trevadawn Pauley and her child in August.

According to data retrieved from the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder’s airbag control unit more than a month after the Aug. 19 collision, “the Nissan deployed its airbags at 53 mph and had been traveling at 71 mph two seconds prior to impact,” the affidavit said. It was used as a legal basis to arrest the Nissan’s driver, Zachary Lee Brown, and charge him with multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated battery.

Brown, the affidavit says, reportedly became agitated when he thought a truck had “cut him off” and slowed down as he headed south on Meridian after picking up his mother from an appointment at Friends University that night.

“Zachary said he thought to himself, ‘What the hell,’” when the truck maneuvered, a Wichita police detective who wrote the affidavit said in the document.

Brown told police he changed lanes, accelerated and passed the truck, only to see the car carrying Pauley and three others cross his path as it turned left onto Esthner, which is south of Harry.

“Zachary said he tried stopping the Nissan but his vehicle slid into the car” shortly before 8:30 p.m., the detective wrote.

“… He didn’t think he ever exceeded 43 mph when passing the truck.”

The speed limit in the area is 35.

This week, a Sedgwick County judge granted a request to delay a preliminary hearing in Brown’s criminal case to Dec. 9 to give attorneys additional time to prepare for the proceeding. Brown, 25, is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Pauley, 21, and her child, and with three counts of aggravated battery for harming the other occupants of the car.

Pauley, who was seven months pregnant when the crash occurred, died of blunt force trauma sustained in the collision after delivering her daughter by emergency Caesarian section at a local hospital.

Aniyiah, the baby, died from prematurity and complications associated with her mother’s injuries six days later.

The collision left two of the other three occupants of the car hospitalized, according to the affidavit: a 17-year-old boy was knocked unconscious and suffered a fractured skull and brain bleeding, and a 24-year-old man had fractures to his face and pelvis. Pauley’s 21-year-old husband, who was driving, was unhurt.

Brown and his two passengers also suffered injuries, the affidavit said — including concussions, broken bones, cuts and bruises.

At the time of the crash, authorities did not give specifics on its cause, including details about what prompted Brown’s arrest and criminal charges. Police had said only that the southbound SUV struck the car’s passenger side as it turned off Meridian.

Neither Brown nor his attorney immediately returned messages from The Eagle seeking comment.

Here are other details of the crash included in the affidavit:

Two independent witnesses described Brown and the truck as speeding and “cutting each other off” as they drove south on Meridian. One of the witnesses described the vehicles’ speed as 45 to 50 mph.

Both of Brown’s passengers — his mother and stepfather — told police Brown appeared aggravated at the truck’s driver and passed the vehicle.

The truck drove away from the crash after it occurred. The man driving and his girlfriend later contacted police.

In an interview, the man told authorities he and Brown both were stopped at a red traffic light on Meridian at McCormick but when the light turned green, Brown pulled ahead, cut in front of the truck and slowed his speed. The man said he changed lanes, passed the SUV and merged in front of it, but eventually slowed when he saw the car carrying Pauley start to turn.

The SUV, the man continued, pulled beside him and passed him “in excess of 60 mph,” then struck the car.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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