Trial underway in Halifax County for DUI crash that killed a 9-year-old boy


HALIFAX COUNTY (WSLS 10) - Day one of the trial began Wednesday with jury selection, which was somewhat challenging.

Eight potential jurors did not show up and of those who did, several recused themselves because they were concerned that, based on experiences in their lives, that the anticipated emotional testimony would impair their ability to be fair and impartial.

Both the Commonwealth and the defense also spent considerable time talking with one juror who felt that his religion prevented him from judging someone and therefore he should be excused from the jury pool.

Ultimately, he was not chosen as one of the 12 jurors.

Melissa Rhodes faces three charges, including felony murder, accused of driving drunk on August 20, 2016, and crashing at the intersection of Mountain Road and Thompson Store Road.

Her fiance's son, 9-year-old Julian Suttle, was in the car and seriously injured. He died a few days later.

On Wednesday, testimony focused primarily on two points: reconstructing the scene of the accident and validating the blood samples that were taken from Rhodes after she was admitted to Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital for treatment after the crash.

By 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Commonwealth had called a dozen witnesses to testify.

Those who were at the scene last August testified that they smelled an odor of alcohol on the Rhodes.

The state toxicologist who analyzed the blood samples taken from Rhodes at the hospital also testified Wednesday, saying that the sample showed Rhodes' blood-alcohol content at the time the blood was drawn was .225.

He talked about how a blood alcohol content like that affects someone and the defense countered by having the toxicologist testify that not all peoples' bodies digest alcohol the same way and therefore Rhodes could potentially not have been suffering from those affects.

Suttle's father, Rhodes' fiance, also briefly testified Wednesday about his relationship with Rhodes.

The judge denied cameras in the courtroom for the trial.

Suttle's father said during a break in the trial Wednesday that neither he nor any member of the family wished to comment.

Commonwealth Attorney Tracy Martin declined to comment until after the trial, which is scheduled to wrap up Friday but late Wednesday afternoon the judge told the jury that the trial was moving along faster than expected.

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