A blocked view is what a Pauls Valley motorist told family members was the cause of a traffic accident in 2019 resulting in the tragic deaths of two Wynnewood siblings.
Aaron Patchell, 23, sat quietly with his attorney listening to the recent start of testimony as he faces two first-degree manslaughter charges stemming from the deaths of Kadence Hewett, 13, and her brother, Gunner Hewett, 9.
Both youngsters were riding in a sport utility vehicle that collided with a pickup truck driven by Patchell in the late morning hours of July 20, 2019 just east of Pauls Valley.
A trio of family members all gave their accounts of what Patchell said to them after the tragic wreck, while another motorist, whose vehicle just missed flying debris by inches as the accident happened, also took the stand during the first day of a preliminary hearing Oct. 8 in a Garvin County District courtroom.
The defendant's father, William Patchell, said his son was coming to help him with chores on his farm near Paoli when the accident occurred. He rushed to the wreck site when he got the news.
“I asked him if he was OK, and he was worried about the children,” Patchell said about his son and the Hewett siblings.
“He said 'they were right in front of me and there was nothing that I could do.'”
Dustin Cook, the defendant's brother-in-law and former Paoli police chief, said the younger Patchell was only concerned about the Hewett kids in the moments after the accident.
“He said he was fine and was only concerned about the other people in the car,” Cook said.
“He said he was driving down the road, old Highway 19 is what people call it, he said he looked down at his speedometer because a vehicle was coming toward him. He thought they were going to go out in front of him. When it had passed he saw a second vehicle was in front of him and there was no time to react.”
Cook added Patchell claimed to be traveling 48 to 50 mph, which compares to the state's belief the defendant's vehicle was moving closer to 85 mph in a 45 mph speed zone.
At times Cook's testimony became emotional as he briefly describing his unsuccessful efforts to revive Kadence Hewett while trying to help at the wreck site.
Also with law enforcement experience is Patchell's sister, Lauren Patchell-Cook, who followed her husband on the stand.
“He said he was traveling westbound, came up to an intersection and a white SUV turned in front of him,” Patchell-Cook said.
“He looked down at his speedometer, looked back up and there was another vehicle in front of him.”
A moment later the tragic collision occurred as Patchell-Cook said her brother has consistently claimed to be driving at around 50 mph.
Also among the nine witnesses testifying during the hearing was Jack Sims.
Sims was driving a vehicle that was approaching the intersection moments before the tragic collision occurred.
“I was coming from the north, pulled up to the stop sign, a white SUV was turning east. As it was turning I looked to the west. That's when I heard the collision. I didn't see it but I heard it,” Sims said, adding there were “a lot of trees to the west and it was kind of hard to see.”
Based on the positioning of the vehicles in the moments after impact Sims said he believes Patchell's pickup truck struck the side of the SUV toward the back.
More witnesses, specifically state troopers investigating the deadly crash, are expected to testify during the hearing's second day now scheduled for early November.