> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
A Pekin woman is facing charges in the death of a Sellersburg man following a head-on collision near Salem on Ind. 60 in April.
Brooke E. Bunch, 31, East Elmer Martin Road, was charged Monday by the Washington County Prosecutor’s office with reckless homicide, a class C felony, and possession of controlled substances, a class D felony.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Bunch was under the influence of prescription sleeping pills on April 8 when she drove a Jeep Cherokee across the roadway’s center line and fatally struck a Harley-Davidson motorcycle driven by 67-year-old Johnny E. Ferrill.
Prior to the collision, a motorist not involved in the accident called authorities about Bunch’s erratic driving, but Ferrill was killed before police were able to pull over Bunch’s vehicle.
At 1:10 p.m. a woman called 911 and reported “ ... a white Jeep Cherokee vehicle that was being operated in a reckless manner,” according to the affidavit. The caller also gave the location and direction of travel of the vehicle.
The same motorist called again at 1:12 p.m. to inform authorities the Jeep Cherokee was driving across the roadway’s center line..
At 1:18 p.m. the Washington County Sheriff’s Department received a call of a motor vehicle crash on Ind. 60, south of Salem.
“Officers were dispatched to look for the [Bunch’s] vehicle, but the crash took place before anyone could get to it,” Washington County Sheriff Claude Combs previously said
When the officer arrived to the collision site, Bunch was determined to be the driver of the Jeep Cherokee and Ferrill was pronounced dead at the scene.
“[Ferrill] was thrown from the bike and was found lying 66 feet from point of impact,” Combs said, adding that Bunch was airlifted from the crash scene to University of Louisville Hospital and released about seven hours later.
Combs said Bunch’s vehicle crossed the center line after she drove off the right side of the road, overcorrected and skidded into the path of Ferrill’s oncoming motorcycle.
After the collision, another motorist reported to WCSD deputies that he was traveling in front of Bunch’s Jeep Cherokee for several miles before the accident and saw her driving erratically.
The man told deputies he saw Bunch drive the vehicle off the right side of the road then cross the center line at least four times. He also reported “Bunch’s vehicle speed fluctuated significantly and that she nearly drove into the rear of his vehicle.”
Lastly, the man reported observing Bunch’s vehicle cross the center line and strike the motorcycle driven by Ferrill.
According to the affidavit, an over-the-counter caffeine pill bottle was found in the console of the Jeep Cherokee. The bottle contained one caffeine pill and several prescription zolpidem tartrate 12.5 milligram pills.
Bunch is prescribed zolpidem tartrate, aka Ambien, a medication to treat insomnia, but in 10-milligram form only, according to the affidavit, and the 12.5 milligram dosage has a stronger effect.
Several days after the collision, WSCD investigators interviewed Bunch.
During the interview Bunch said she had taken one of her 10-milligram pills about 10 p.m. April 7, the night before the accident, and a second pill about 3:30 a.m.
“When asked about the side effects of zolpidem tartrate, Bunch stated that it can cause dizziness and drowsiness so a person shouldn’t operate machinery unless certain as to its effects,” according to the affidavit. “Bunch stated that she usually doesn’t ingest two doses of zolpidem tartrate, like she did immediately preceding the crash.”
Bunch also said the caffeine pill bottle found in the Jeep Cherokee belonged to her, and that she takes the pills to stay awake at work.
She told the investigators that she had picked up the prescription for the 12.5 milligram zolpidem tartrate pills for a friend the morning of the accident.
Bunch has an initial hearing scheduled in a Washington County Court on Aug. 26.
If found guilty of the class C and D felonies in which she has been charged, Bunch could be sentenced to 11 years in state prison.