NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Two years after a fiery crash claimed the life of a 13-month-old boy, the criminal case against the child's mother accused of being impaired while behind the wheel remains mired in court proceedings.
Melissa Henderson, 30, is charged with felony death by motor vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, felony serious injury by vehicle, speeding, simple possession of a schedule IV controlled substance, and two counts of felony child abuse inflicting serious injury in connection to the April 24, 2016 crash that killed 13-month-old James Andrews III.
At around 9:20 a.m. that morning, Henderson was driving 80 mph on River Road when she failed to make a sharp turn near Snow's Cut Bridge and slammed into a tree, causing her vehicle to burst into flames, according to a crash report.
Good Samaritans were able to pull Henderson and her 2-year-old daughter from the vehicle, but James died in the blaze.
A probable cause affidavit in support of a search warrant – citing the results of a urinalysis – revealed Henderson had multiple prescription and illegal narcotics in her system at the time of the crash.
However, in a court document filed on Tuesday, Henderson's defense attorney claims that information was obtained through an "unlawful" search, and has requested any evidence obtained as a result of search warrants be suppressed should the case proceed to trial.
In the document, Henderson's attorney says law enforcement learned of the alleged impairment after obtaining medical records without a warrant, making it an "unreasonable search," which citizens are protected from under the Fourth Amendment. The attorney argued this renders any subsequent search warrants obtained using this information as probable cause invalid.
"Without a probable cause basis, the search warrants are invalid and the searches pursuant to these invalid search warrants are unreasonable," the attorney states. "Since the searches pursuant to these search warrants are unreasonable, the evidence collected during their execution must be suppressed."
Ultimately, the court will decide if the evidence will be excluded from the case.
After being treated for injuries sustained in the crash, Henderson was booked in the New Hanover County Detention Center under a $250,000 bond, which she posted several months later. However, she was re-arrested in March 2017 after it was discovered she had violated her bond conditions by traveling to Texas to visit the father of her children. Since then, she has remained in jail under a $500,000 bond.