Judge to review evidence motions in fatal crash case

Becky Vargo • May 14, 2019 at 9:00 AM

A preliminary examination for a man charged in a double fatal crash was rescheduled to June 3, following a hearing Monday in Muskegon County District Court.

In the meantime, Cody Ralph Loomis of Twin Lake remains lodged in the Muskegon County Jail on a $500,000 bond.

Loomis, 25, is charged with two counts of drunken driving causing death in the March 9 crash that killed a Ravenna couple — Justin Ducham, 39, and Melissa (Nash) Wilds, 37. Loomis is also charged with two counts of driving on a suspended license causing death. 

Ducham was a Nunica businessman.

Wilds was a former Spring Lake and Nunica resident who worked in Grand Haven. She was also the older sister of the late Chance Nash, who died in a sledding accident on Dec. 31, 2009, at Duncan Memorial Park in Grand Haven.

Although Monday’s hearing was originally supposed to be a preliminary examination, Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said that he and defense attorney Terry Nolan agreed to put off the hearing while they discussed prosecution motions on evidence inclusion. Nolan emphasized that a preliminary examination was certain if the prosecutor’s office moved ahead with a charge of second-degree murder.

Hilson said that Loomis’ blood alcohol level was well above the legal limit when he was convicted of drunken driving in 2014 and 2017. Loomis was also charged with having open alcohol in his vehicle in 2016.

The prosecutor said that testimony during the preliminary examination would reveal that Loomis’ blood alcohol level on the night of March 9 was 0.2.

Loomis is not your “garden variety drunk,” Hilson said.

“We’re dealing with somebody who understood … if he drank in excess, he could not operate a motor vehicle,” the prosecutor said.

Nolan argued that drunken driving doesn’t reach the willful and wanton level required for a second-degree murder charge, and that “the effort here by the prosecutor is simply to make my client look bad.” The defense attorney noted that a Supreme Court case says falling asleep at the wheel is ordinary negligence.

“It appears my client fell asleep,” Nolan said. 

Testimony from Michigan State Police Sgt. Brandon Davis revealed that, based on airbag data, Loomis’ pickup truck was traveling at 56 mph when it crossed the center line and struck the Ford Edge occupied by Ducham and Wilds. The Edge was traveling at 59 mph. Neither vehicle braked before the collision, Davis said.

There was no evidence that the Edge was driving anything but straight on the two-lane highway, Davis noted. Evidence at the scene revealed that the Edge was starting to go over the fog line at the time of the early morning crash.

The northbound pickup truck traveled more than 7 feet into the southbound lane, Davis said. The distance from the center line to the fog line is about 11 and a half feet. 

There were no witnesses to the crash, Davis said.

Life EMS paramedic Jason Best said that he and co-worker Michael Krucinski were on the scene within nine minutes of the 1:24 a.m. call. Both paramedics testified that Loomis told them he had been drinking and he believed that he had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Loomis was pinned inside his pickup truck and was taken to the hospital after being extricated. He stayed in the hospital for two days before being released to the Muskegon County Jail on the following Monday.

Judge Kostrzewa said he would read the briefs on the evidence motions and give an oral opinion when he made a decision.

The prosecutor’s motions were to include evidence from Loomis’ prior drunken driving convictions and to exclude toxicology reports of the deceased victims.

Recommended for You

    Grand Haven Tribune Videos