A DUI manslaughter case has been certified to a Williamsburg-James City County jury by Judge Colleen Killilea.

In the incident that led to the case, 19-year-old Christopher Mellis was leaving his Friday night shift at Paul’s Deli in Williamsburg and driving alone in his Chrysler Cirrus at approximately 11:30 p.m. on April 10 when he was involved in a head-on collision with a Jeep Liberty. According to a witness, the Jeep’s headlights were not on. A third vehicle barely missed being hit.

The first person to reach Mellis’ vehicle after the crash discovered him pinned inside the vehicle…in the back seat.

According to the testimony of eyewitness Dana Clay, she was stopped at the intersection of Richmond and Barnes roads when she saw Mellis’ Cirrus spin about three or four times before eventually coming to a stop. She then called 911.

Clay said that while she was waiting for police and medics to arrive, she rushed over to the Jeep, but found the door open with no one inside. She said she never saw the driver and he never returned to the vehicle.

Firefighter and medic Jason Watkins arrived at the scene about 10 minutes later with the James City County Fire Department. He said that Mellis was still pinned in the back seat of his vehicle when he was pronounced dead.

Around the same time, James City Police Officer Chris Gibson arrived at the scene. He said several witnesses had gathered at the scene. Among them was Matthew Burch.

At a preliminary hearing into whether Burch would face charges of felony involuntary manslaughter and DUI, Gibson said he had smelled strongly of alcohol. He has two prior DUI convictions on his record.

Watkins said that at the time, Burch was “confused about his time and place” and had an altered mental state while receiving ambulance transport to a local hospital. Watkins said that he had suffered a few small cuts to his head that were not bleeding.

Burch refused to submit to a breathalyzer test, but according to forensic toxicologist Dr. Les Edinboro, a vial of his blood was tested at the hospital and showed his blood-alcohol content to be between 0.19 and 0.23, well above the legal limit of 0.08.

If indicted, Burch is scheduled to appear in circuit court in July.

Bob Battle
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100% of my practice is devoted to serious traffic defense and criminal litigation in state and federal courts
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