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Attorneys talk intent as Kzoo cycling tragedy trial starts

Testimony began Tuesday in the trial of the man accused of hitting and killing five bicyclists north of Kalamazoo in the summer of 2016.


Charles Pickett Jr. is charged with five counts of second-degree murder, five counts of driving while intoxicated causing death and four counts of reckless driving causing impairment.

Jury selection began Monday and concluded Tuesday afternoon. Attorneys then gave opening statements, after which the prosecution called its first witness.

The prosecution said evidence in the trial will show Pickett was traveling at least 58 mph in a 35 mph zone and showed no signs of breaking until his truck hit the first cyclist, and that evidence will show he had multiple controlled substances in his system.

The prosecutor also said Pickett was feeling down the day of the incident and told a friend he would be better off dead about an hour before the crash.

In his opening statement, Pickett’s attorney admitted he had crashed into the group of cyclists, but said there is more needed to find him guilty.

“It isn’t merely causation,” the defense said. “There’s a state of mind that required there’s some other elements that you have to look at. So the mere fact that Mr. Pickett did drive a vehicle and that vehicle killed some people and seriously injured some other people, that (doesn’t show) enough.”

Investigators say Pickett took pain pills and muscle relaxers on June 7, 2016, before driving his pickup truck into a group of bicyclists on Westnedge Avenue in Cooper Township. Marijuana and meth were also discovered in his truck, authorities say.

Five members of the cycling group, called The Chain Gang, were killed: Debbie Bradley, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik and Suzanne Sippel. Four other cyclists were injured.

The court is not allowing the trial to be streamed live online, but 24 Hour News 8 reporters will be in the courtroom and will be tweeting updates. 24 Hour News 8 will also have daily updates on the trial on air and online.

The trial will resume at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.