The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Road rage suspect caught driving, so back to jail he goes


A Sharpsburg man accused of killing a Fayette woman in a road-rage altercation last May is back in jail for failing to comply with bond conditions.

Paul Samuel Gardner Jr., 32, twice violated bond conditions forbidding him from driving, and he also failed to submit proof of drug testing to the court as ordered by Superior Court Judge Christopher C. Edwards, according to court documents.

Gardner was arrested Thursday afternoon after his $66,000 bond was revoked by Superior Court Judge Paschal A. English Jr.

The May 10 wreck killed Kera Nicole Koon, 21, after police say she lost control of her vehicle on Ga. Highway 54 near Tyrone Road. Gardner is charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and one count each of reckless driving, hit and run from an accident resulting in death and speeding.

Fayette County sheriff’s detectives have alleged Gardner and Koon engaged in a road rage altercation moments before the crash while driving toward Peachtree City.

Witnesses told detectives that Gardner tapped on his brakes twice while his Ford F-250 truck was in front of Koon’s vehicle, a Chevy Blazer. Detectives charged that Koon’s reaction to that maneuver caused her to lose control of her truck.

The criminal indictment against Gardner also alleges that he blocked both lanes of travel while he drove in front of Koon.

A passenger in Koon’s vehicle told detectives she was frightened after Gardner’s truck sped up to catch them after Koon allegedly cut Gardner’s truck off.

Gardner didn’t stop at the scene after the wreck, but he later passed by the crash scene and then turned himself in to the sheriff’s department. He later gave a taped interview with detectives, which was accidentally recorded over by another detective not on the case, sheriff’s officials said.

The mishandling of that key evidence is one reason Gardner’s attorneys are asking the court to drop the charges. In a court filing, attorneys Lee Sexton and Scott Key argue the tape could have shown whether detectives coerced Gardner during the interview in violation of his Miranda rights.

The attorneys also criticized the sheriff’s department for failing to secure Koon’s vehicle as evidence, which resulted in the Blazer’s grill going missing after it was held at an unsecured facility.

“The grill would have been a vital piece of evidence in this case,” according to the brief from Sexton and Key. “An examination of it would have shown whether Gardner made contact with his assailant.”

Gardner’s attorneys are also seeking a court order for a test to determine if Koon was under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident.

According to court documents, Gardner was encountered driving his vehicle twice by police officers in Tyrone and Peachtree City. He has also failed to produce evidence he has attended drug counseling and taken weekly drug tests as ordered by Judge Edwards.

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