Officers investigate if Hanover doctor was texting before fatal accident

Posted at 6:40 PM, Jan 21, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-22 00:05:00-05

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WTVR)—As CBS 6 reported Monday night, multiple questions still remain in the fatal accident involving a Bon Secours doctor who police said was driving under the influence when he struck and killed a well-known Hanover mother on her morning run.

Now Hanover investigators are searching phone records that could indicate if Dr. Michael J. Carlson was texting immediately before the accident.

The Hanover search warrant obtained by CBS 6 indicates that investigators have filed with Verizon to access the contents of the iPhone 4 owned by Carlson, which was seized last week following the accident.

Around 8:15 a.m., Carlson was traveling westbound in his SUV, on E. Patrick Henry Road, to his job as an internist at Theresa Thomas Medical Center when he struck Meg Menzies, 34, as she ran east on the westbound shoulder, according to police. Menzies was a mother of three, wife of a Sergeant with the Ashland Police Department, and avid runner.

Carlson’s blood alcohol content was .11 at the time of the crash. The legal limit is .08.

At the time of the accident a 12-ounce bottle of Samuel Adams Winter Lager, and prescription bottle of Prednisone containing 20-mg tablets, and a sample package containing two 20-mg. tablets of Levitra were recovered.

In addition to these items, Carlson’s iPhone 4 was seized. Lt. Chris Whitley said the phone has remained in their possession since last Monday, when the accident occurred.

The affidavit asks Verizon for “all subscriber information, call records, cellular tower information, MMS and SMS (text messages) to include all records present or deleted, between 8 a.m. January 12, 2014 and 3 p.m. January 13, 2014,” on Carlson’s cellphone.

This would include a time period extending back 24 hours before the accident.

The crash investigator, Dennis Edwards, alleges that the responding officer, Lieutenant Kenny Epling, overheard a conversation Carlson was having, in which the person on the other end said “You can’t tell the police you were texting.”

Lt. Epling wrote in the criminal complaint that Carlson reached down to adjust the radio and ran off the road. He told the officer that he saw a runner but was unable to avoid the individual.

Carlson stopped at the scene, called 911 and attempted to help Menzies, his lawyer Gregory Sheldon said in court, last week.

The search warrant doesn’t indicate whether police are searching to see if Carlson did dial 911.

“There are a variety of reasons why we would examine a phone for evidence,” Lt. Chris Whitley said. “This doesn’t mean he was texting while driving.”

“We can’t release any investigative details about texting,” he added. “This is just one of many things we will evaluate as part of our investigation.”

CBS 6 is working on this developing story for the 11 p.m. newscast. We will interview a legal analyst to find out what constitutes probable cause in this situation, and what police hope to discover by obtaining the phone records.

Carlson is expected back in Hanover court in April.  He is currently out of bond.

Under the judge’s order, Carlson is not allowed to drink alcohol and must wear a SCRAM bracelet, which lets the court know if a person has been drinking alcohol.

Seating an impartial jury will be difficult if the case goes to trial, according to lawyers who spoke with CBS 6. Both Menzies and Carlson were well known and respected members of the Hanover community. Both the victim and defendant are the parents of three children.