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WAAY 31 I-TEAM: Investigation still open months after deadly crash involving Madison police officer

The officer's name has not yet been released.

Posted: Sep 30, 2019 5:41 PM
Updated: Sep 30, 2019 7:51 PM

The WAAY 31 I-TEAM has learned more about a deadly crash investigators say was caused by an off-duty Madison police officer.

More than three months after the crash killed 92-year-old Phyllis Pine, we know one investigation is still ongoing and every other hasn't even started.

The WAAY 31 I-TEAM discovered the officer is still at home recovering from his injuries. 

The initial crash report shows the Madison police officer, whose name has not yet been released, was trying to avoid rear-ending two cars that were either stopped or moving slowly on Wall Triana Highway. We learned the officer swerved into oncoming traffic and hit a car head-on.

We took the community's questions to investigators to find out if and when charges could be filed. 

Some family members and friends of 92-year-old Phyllis Pine are growing restless, three months after her death and a report blaming the crash on an off-duty Madison police officer. Huntsville police told the WAAY 31 I-TEAM that investigators need more time.

Investigators say they're waiting on reports from the Department of Forensic Science, a department the state repeatedly cited for lengthy delays and back-ups. It means the case is still weeks away from reaching the Madison County District Attorney's Office.

Assistant District Attorney Shauna Barnett vowed the officer won't be getting special treatment.

"We're going to handle it just like every other case, that it didn't involve a police officer, just like we normally would," Barnett said.

Madison Police Chief Dave Jernigan wouldn't go on camera but said his department's internal investigation into the crash won't start until the officer whose name nobody will give out is back on duty. Just like the D.A.'s office, he's also waiting on a final report from Huntsville police.

Even though the initial crash report blames the off-duty officer, we're still working to learn if he was speeding or using a cell phone when the wreck happened.

Barnett handles the majority of the traffic homicide cases and said not all crashes involving a death are criminal.

"The Traffic Homicide Unit is investigating. They are doing it like they would any other investigation, which is to be thorough investigation, getting all the data they can," Barnett said. "We have a whole civil side of the justice system. That's what deals with the money damages and the loss of life, a loss of income, all that type of thing. Some of those don't meet the threshold for criminal charges."

Barnett explained they take circumstances surrounding the crash into consideration when deciding if a driver should face criminal charges.

"Ninety-nine point nine percent of wrecks of any kind are caused by operator error on somebody's part. Somebody's following too close. Somebody is not yielding the right of way. Somebody is speeding, and there is a difference in speeding 5, 10, 15 mph, and 50 miles an hour over or some egregious speed," Barnett said.

Prosecutors won't get the case until they know that information. We checked court records and at this time, no civil lawsuit has been filed by Pine's family against either the City of Madison or the Madison Police Department after the wreck. 

The Madison County Commission is working with the Alabama Department of Transportation on improvements along the road in the area

Plans include widening the shoulder and adding a dedicated turn lane for southbound drivers who want to turn left onto McCrary Road. The commission said a start date on the project has not yet been determined.

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