BENTON - It’s been five months since the Memorial Day collision on US Highway 95 between the driver of a pickup truck and a car filled with four Marshall County teens, Lake McGregor, Maggie Adams, Shane McKenty, and Landon Lovett.
Both McKenty and Lovett sustained life-threatening injuries during the incident. McKenty was left in a coma for several weeks while Lovett remains in a coma in a Nashville hospital.
While initial reports indicated intoxication could have been a factor in the crash, law enforcement could not affect an arrest due to the driver’s condition at the time of the incident.
Twenty-four year-old Cory Burkeen was airlifted from the scene along with McKenty and Lovett.
After the first round of toxicology reports were returned, it was unclear if Burkeen would face any charges.
However, Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars said due to evidence at the scene, a complete analysis was requested with blood samples from Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville being subpoenaed and sent to the State Crime Lab where, after months of waiting, those results now indicate intoxication was a factor in the crash.
Yesterday, October 3, Marshall County Deputy Nathan Maxlow served an arrest warrant from Marshall County District Court taking Burkeen into custody.
He has been charged with operating a motor vehicle under the Influence, four counts of first-degree wanton endangerment and two counts of first-degree assault.
Since the time of the incident, Burkeen has faced other charges in unrelated incidences, including burglary and public intoxication.
Of the time it has taken to bring some sort of closure to the case Byars said a lot of police work was involved and a concerted effort has been made to ensure all of the “I’s have been dotted and T’s crossed.”
While initial toxicology reports showed there was no alcohol in Burkeen’s blood, the samples were sent to the State Police Crime Lab where it was determined Burkeen had drugs in his system, a specific group of drugs, Benzodiazepines.
Byars said that was as specific as the state crime lab could get, but he did not feel that was sufficient to take the case to court.
Byars said the samples were then forwarded to an out of state laboratory where further testing confirmed the presence of Valium and Klonopin.
Byars said his office, along with the County Attorney’s office, consulted with an expert at the University of Kentucky who advised that the two drugs would not have been prescribed together by a physician.
Byars also stated Burkeen did not have a prescription for either drug found in his system.
“There was enough to deem he was impaired the night of the collision and to charge him with DUI,” Byars said. “From there, the other two charges were due to the evidence showing there was extreme indifference for other human life, which meets the statutory definition of the charge.”
Byars said he hopes the public understands why an investigation of this magnitude can take such a great length of time to complete and complete accurately.
“We had reports that Burkeen was intoxicated the night of the collision, of course through what the officers witnessed and reports from others on scene, but we had to go this route because Vanderbilt would not cooperate with us.”
Byars said despite a direct request made to the hospital by the investigating officer the night of the incident to take a blood sample for the purpose of toxicology, the charge nurse on duty at the hospital refused. “They told us they would not do it unless we had an officer standing there,” he said. “Of course being two hours away, that was not possible.”
Byars added that through extensive police investigation and a search warrant of Burkeen’s medical records , it was discovered that a few samples of unused blood remained. The samples were then subpoenaed and subsequently used in the tests mentioned above.
Burkeen is being held in the Marshall County Detention Center on $25,000 bail.