Murder trial continues in case involving four young men's deaths

Posted by Amy Kelch - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Prosecutors have dropped a charge of reckless driving against the teen accused of causing a crash that killed his four passengers when he tried to run from police. Herbert Lee, the car's driver, was the only survivor. Lee is charged with four counts of murder.

Attorneys made opening statements as the trial got under way on Oct. 18. One of the officers involved wiped a tear from his eye while on the stand and the defense said Lee's decision not to stop when police tried to pull him over was the biggest mistake of his life. Prosecutors say if Lee had stopped instead of running, brothers Demar, Jemar, and Marc Claybrooks, and their friend, Aaron Shields, would be here today.

The prosecution set up its arguments one by one, showing jurors the faces of the four young men who died on December 18, 2008. Jurors also viewed chilling dash cam video of the police chase and its aftermath. As officers pulled up to the scene of the crash, 16-year-old Jemar is on the ground, waving his hand.

The force of the crash ripped the Honda in half, ejecting some of the passengers. Three were pronounced dead at the scene; Jemar was conscious when he was thrown from the vehicle, but later died at University Hospital as doctors prepared him for surgery.

The second day of testimony, Tuesday, October 19, started with one of the witnesses on the stand identifying the four deceased's boys pictures, which stayed on the stand as a constant reminder of four lives cut short.

Emergency responders took the stand, describing in vivid detail what they saw.

"The car that had wrecked was just in pieces everywhere. There were bodies everywhere. It was just a very graphic and chaotic scene. There were officers doing CPR, and it was just like there wasn't enough help we could have done fast enough," an LMPD officer said.

The teens were at a now-defunct Youth Alive event.   The question remains - how and why didn't they leave with the group?

A former volunteer who goes by Trey says leaders told him his van was too packed that night during the event.  To free space, he says he was forced to find the teens a ride, but says he wasn't sure who they were going with.

"I wasn't for sure they were going home with the defendant but I knew they were getting home in some type of way with someone affiliated with youth alive," the volunteer said on the stand Tuesday.

He says he was busy with about a dozen other teens, so he wasn't able to keep track of who they made off with.

Prosecutors have told jurors they would provide evidence that Lee, who was just 16 at the time, didn't have a driver's license or permit, and was involved in a carjacking just days before the deadly crash.

Lee's attorneys claimed he had been with the four boys at a Youth Alive event earlier that night and was trying to better himself. While they admit he made a terrible decision that cost four lives, they said he did not murder them.

Lee could be sentenced to life in prison if he is found guilty of all charges.

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