Driver in Warm Springs Road fatality smoked marijuana alternative prior to crash, charged with vehicular homicide

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 25, 2013 

A driver involved in a fatal car crash which occurred on Warm Springs Road March 19 faced charges of vehicular homicide and DUI during a 9 a.m. Recorder's Court hearing.

Jennifer Baker, 30, was charged with vehicular homicide for the death of her boyfriend, 50-year-old Larry Anthony. Baker, who attended court in a wheelchair and arm sling, was the driver in a car crash which took place on Warm Springs Road near Psalmond Road at about 2:20 a.m.

Officers spoke with Baker at about 3 a.m. after she had been transported to the trauma room in the Medical Center. She told police at first that she could not remember much from the crash other than running into the 7-foot utility pole, but later said that she initially swerved because a deer came into her path. She also said that she may have blacked out.

Investigators working the scene stated that Baker's story did not match up, given that tire tracks on the grass indicated a slower drift towards the utility pole, rather than a sudden jerking motion or a sudden stop which would have indicated Baker did encounter a deer.

When officers asked Baker if she had been drinking or using any illegal substances during the crash, Baker said she was "not a drinker" but said she had smoked "that stuff" earlier in the day. When pressed, she told officers she had smoked an alternative to marijuana called potpourri with Anthony earlier in the day.

Police Capt. Gil Slouchick said potpourri is not the substance used to freshen the air in areas like bathrooms, but rather a substance that can be purchased in some gas stations that acts similarly to synthetic marijuana, also known as spice.

"They package it as potpourri and put on the package 'not for human consumption,'" Slouchick said. "But people smoke it anyways."

Slouchick said the substance is not illegal in Georgia because it does not have the same molecular makeup as synthetic marijuana.

"You don't know how it's going to affect you because you don't know what's in it," he said.

Baker told police that she had a history of substance abuse and had been addicted to pills for ten years. She regularly takes methadone, a pain reliever and anti-addictive medicine which is meant to decrease cravings for opiates by releasing a supervised, stable dose of opiates into the blood stream. She did not take the methadone the day of the crash.

She also told police she had done one line of methamphetamine during the weekend.

Baker told Judge Michael Cielinski, while in tears, that she wouldn't do anything to hurt Anthony and that she loved him.

Baker's bond was set at $51,250 for the charges of vehicular homicide in the first degree and DUI. Her case will be forwarded to Muscogee Superior Court.

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