CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Leah Walton took the stand Friday morning inside a Mecklenburg County courthouse to defend herself in the alleged August 2010 murder of Susan Karabulut.
Walton, 23, sobbed while on the stand. She claimed she was running late for work that morning and had last taken a Xanax anxiety pill around 5 p.m. the day before the incident.
She denied being under the influence when the car she was driving hit and killed the nurse and severely injured a second woman on Craig Avenue.
"I would not have gotten in the car if I thought so," said Walton. "I don't know what happened but I know it was my fault...No excuse for what happened."
Police said that Walton crossed the center line and hit Karabulut and Lisa McIe, who were on the sidewalk. McIe survived and had to undergo 17 surgeries.
Walton said she heard screams during the wreck and added she didn’t realize she was on the wrong side of the road until she felt a bump. The sight of her car still makes her sick, Walton added.
The jury traveled to the Craig Avenue scene Thursday morning to survey it for themselves. Attorneys watched but were not allowed to speak to the panel.
One of the prosecution’s final witnesses Thursday was Karabulut’s sister, Paula Taggio, who identified her sister’s picture taken at the medical examiner’s office in emotional and tearful terms.
Prosecutors have been inferring that Walton may have been impaired. Retired SBI Chemist Irvin Allcox tested Walton’s blood for drugs and alcohol after the accident.
He told jurors that he found no alcohol.
“There was no rounding it down. It was just zero,” said Allcox.
He also testified that he found no cocaine, but there was a small trace of marijuana in her system, along with hydrocodone and anti-depressants.
Despite that, he could not say if she was impaired.
"Again, there was no way for me to determine when it was taken and how long it may have been there. All I can say is it's there," he testified.
"I've been very depressed,” Walton added. “I still have nightmares. Sometimes it feels like it's that day all over again."
Walton wrapped up her testimony around 10:45 a.m. Friday.
Walton gets snippy during cross examination
Walton may be remorseful but that didn’t stop her from saying some terrible things about the victims.
Her attorney, George Laughrum, tried to soften the blow by bringing up the controversy. He asked her if she said, ‘Those b****** were on the side of the road and I have to go to jail?’
Walton said ‘Yes’ and then tearfully explained why.
"I guess it had been such a long day, I was so scared. I certainly didn't mean it. There was no excuse for what happened that day."
Walton also showed another emotional side as she got snippy with prosecutors during cross examination.
She disagreed with them over the speed she said she was doing five to seven miles per hour over the limit. Prosecutors said it was 11 mph.
"I can recall why I was driving close to the posted limit on Craig Avenue that day because when I came to the stop sign at Richland and I paused for a moment, took a breath, and told myself that I needed to drive safely the rest of the way," said Walton.