Lehigh Valley

Lawyer says woman charged in fatal DUI crash wasn't high

I-78 wreck killed her 2 grandchildren

Woman charged in fatal DUI crash that...

LOWER SAUCON TWP., Pa. - The New Jersey woman accused of causing a three-vehicle wreck that killed her two grandchildren has turned herself in to authorities.

And her defense attorney is arguing that she wasn’t high as investigators are alleging.

Nadine Walton, of Newark, N.J., faces vehicular homicide charges in connection to the fatal September 2016 wreck in Lower Saucon Township. District Judge Elizabeth Romig-Gainer arraigned the 55-year-old Friday morning.

Defense attorney Scott Wilhelm had asked the judge to consider unsecured bail, arguing in part that Walton was in no physical or financial condition to run. The injuries sustained in the wreck, including brain damage, forced her to resign from her job in the finance department of University Hospital in Newark, according to the defense.

Wilhelm said Walton can’t afford to have money for her defense tied up in bail, and he cited a clean criminal record.

“At 55 years of age, she’s never been in trouble before,” he said.

The judge set bail at $25,000 with a 10 percent cash option. Walton’s family posted $2,500 cash bail about an hour after the arraignment.

Authorities allege Walton was under the influence of marijuana when she lost control of her Nissan Versa about 1 a.m. Sept. 14. The vehicle struck a guardrail and was twice struck by passing vehicles along Interstate 78.

Emergency personnel found Walton trapped in the driver’s seat and her 5-year-old grandson and daughter thrown from the vehicle. Her grandson was pronounced dead at the scene and her nearly 2-year-old granddaughter died a few days later at Lehigh Valley Hospital Cedar Crest.

Wilhelm said it will be up to the prosecution to prove Walton had been smoking marijuana before the wreck. It takes about 30 days for the body to metabolize the active ingredients in marijuana, he said.

So while toxicology tests may show pot in someone’s system, it may have been weeks since they smoked, according to Wilhelm. The fatal crash was a “terrible tragedy,” but not necessarily a crime, he said.

“She didn’t drive from South Carolina, while under the influence,” Wilhelm said. “She had not consumed marijuana at all that day before driving.”

Walton appeared in court with family members, including her daughter, with the help of a walker. Her labored breathing because of a permanent tracheotomy was audible.

State police charged Walton with two counts each of involuntary manslaughter, vehicular homicide, vehicular aggravated assault, vehicular homicide while driving under the influence and vehicular aggravated assault while DUI, all felonies.

She also faces three counts of DUI, possession of a controlled substance, marijuana possession, possession of drug paraphernalia - a misdemeanors - and four summary traffic offenses.

Walton’s next court date is a preliminary hearing scheduled for Sept. 11.

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