DAY 4: Grooms’ blood alcohol level revealed, prosecution rests

Thomas Grooms is on trial in a New Hanover County courtroom for the deaths of David Doolittle and his 17-year-old son, Trey.
Thomas Grooms is on trial in a New Hanover County courtroom for the deaths of David Doolittle and his 17-year-old son, Trey.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Thomas Grooms is on trial in a New Hanover County courtroom for the deaths of David Doolittle and his 17-year-old son, Trey.

After testifying on Friday, March 23 without the jury present, Thelma Schumaker took the stand again on Monday, March 26. This time, she did speak in front of the jury.

A former Super Bowl Sunday night when Schumaker and Grooms went to downtown Wilmington was the topic of much of the conversation. She explained that they went to Thalian Hall, then Circa 1922, followed by Caprice Bistro and finally The Cigar Exchange. Schumaker said that they both had multiple alcoholic drinks during the evening of Feb. 6, 2011.

"He was impaired...we should have called a cab," she told the jury.


When they left The Cigar Exchange, Grooms drove Schumaker back to Carolina Beach via River Road. During the trip, Schumaker had a panic attack and begged Grooms to stop the vehicle because, she testified, he was driving very fast and almost hit a mailbox. Later, she told defense attorney Dennis H. Sullivan, Jr. that she takes medications for panic attacks, when needed. She said that she has panic attacks when something is "very disturbing."

Schumaker also told the court that Grooms preferred drinking Vodka and Mountain Dew mixtures from a red Solo cup. She explained that he mixed the drinks prior to driving and while driving.


Special Agent Brittany Dewell, a forensic chemist for the SBI, was next to take the stand.  She is trained to identify controlled substances.

Dewell told the court Monday that she did a complete analysis on a portion of the straw that was found in Grooms' car and determined it contained mephedrone.

Dewell also analyzed the swabbings taken from Grooms' face and nostrils. She said the swab from one his nostrils contained mephedrone. Four other swabs, however, and a pair of sunglasses came back clean.


Special Agent Ann Hamlin of the SBI also testified. She went over the molecular structure of mephedrone and compared it to the structures of similar substances that are illegal. She also explained the definition of a controlled substance, emphasizing that it must be "intended for human consumption."


Anna Dulaney, with the Carolinas Poison Center, was the final person to testify prior to the lunch break. She told the court that mephedrone is a stimulant commonly referred to as bath salts and that on June 1, 2011 it became controlled in the state of North Carolina.

Dulaney also indicated that she doesn't know of any medicinal substances that are intended to be snorted.


Dr. William Meggs, a medical toxicologist, went over the effects of mephedrone on the body's central nervous system. He said the effects are similar to cocaine and methamphetamine. It can cause euphoria and hallucinations, and can be "highly intoxicating." Many people became "psychotic" after taking mephedrone, according to Meggs.

"Mephedrone is a synthetic designer drug that first came to our attention a little over a year ago," he said. It was marketed as bath salts or plant food and was sold in convenience stores and tobacco shops.


Richard Waggoner, with the SBI's toxicology unit, received two vials of Grooms' blood, which was drawn at 11:14 a.m. on April 3, 2011. He testified that Grooms' blood tested negative for mephedrone. It did contain Zoloft and an over-the-counter antihistamine.

He also testified that Grooms' blood alcohol level was 0.13. The legal limit to drive is 0.08.

He said that since the blood was drawn about two hours after the Doolittle accident, a mathematical equation was used to establish what the likely absorption rate was at the time of the event. The formula, known as retrograde extrapolation, showed that Grooms' blood alcohol would have been 0.16 at 9:28 a.m., the time of the accident.

At the end of Waggoner's testimony, the state rested its case against Grooms.

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