Dressed in a red and blue plaid button up, khakis and brown cowboy boots, Alex Catterson stood next to his attorney Samuel Scroggie as the jury entered the courtroom Tuesday morning.
The jury made its way to the jury box to begin day two of the State of Missouri v. Catterson trial. Circuit Judge Roger Prokes read Catterson’s charges to the jury — class B felony DWI Death Of Another Not A Passenger.
Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice stood before the jury and made his opening statement. Rice stated Catterson was drunk and even claimed to be on multiple counts in police reports. Catterson then drove his truck, which he had made modifications to, and wrecked into The Palms, allegedly killing Morgan McCoy, Jan. 7. 2018.
“Catterson said he fishtailed so hard, he fell over, and the next thing he knew he was in The Palms,” Rice said. “Catterson is a mechanic and modified his truck claiming ‘It doesn't take much to get the tires spinning.’”
Rice said he would be calling 35 witnesses to testify — 18 civilians and 17 medical, law enforcement and first responders. Sixteen witnesses testified before the jury Tuesday. Rice said he would present 244 exhibits of evidence, mostly in the form of photo and video footage.
Rice then took a seat next to special prosecuting attorney Stephanie Watson, and Scroggie stepped up to the podium to make his opening statement.
Scroggie said the accident was not Catterson’s fault, and the evidence presented in this case will show a vehicular malfunction. Scroggie said he will be arguing Catterson is not guilty of felony DWI.
Scroggie concluded his opening statement and said Maryville mechanic Delbert Worthington and himself went to inspect Catterson’s truck following the incident and found that the passenger side ball joint was broken.
Rice called Samuel Farmer, his first witness of the day, to the stand. Farmer was working as a bouncer at The Palms the night of the incident and testified that he restrained the driver in the truck.
The judge asked Farmer if the driver of the truck was in the courtroom. Farmer replied with a yes and pointed across the room to Catterson, identifying him as the driver.
Brady Reed was the fourth witness of the day.
Reed was at The Palms during the time of the crash and performed CPR on McCoy with the help of Alexx Lewis until University Police officer Sydney Smith arrived at the scene and took over. Reed spoke in detail to the jury about how he found McCoy laying covered in debris, humming quietly to herself.
Reed rode with Smith to St. Francis Hospital where McCoy was pronounced dead.
“I told Morgan’s friends that she died. I then went into the hospital room to tell Morgan’s mom about her last humming words,” Reed said through a shaky voice and quivering chin.
Sitting behind the prosecuting attorney in the gallery, McCoy’s mother, ex-boyfriend and others sat crying, quietly sniffling and passing tissues down the pews.
After the second recess of the day was called, some members of the gallery stood up and held each other after hearing vivid accounts of McCoy’s death retold several times. Several left the courtroom with tears rolling down their cheeks. McCoy’s mother was present, constantly clutching a small yellow urn and assured people that her daughter was indeed still with them.
After the recess concluded, Scroggie and Catterson entered the courtroom. Scroggie let out a long sigh before taking his hands out of his pockets and taking his seat.
The jury entered the room and Rice called his next witness to the stand.
Riley Buckman entered the courtroom led by Rice and took the witness stand. She was the 10th witness of the day and McCoy’s roommate and sorority sister.
Buckman had been with McCoy the night of the crash. Rice asked Buckman to describe her night with McCoy, what happened while at the bar and up until she had left the bar. She described a typical night for her and her friends, hanging out at The Palms and mingling with others at the bar.
Buckman was toward the back of the bar, by the pool table, when she saw the roof crumble at the entrance from the corner of her eye.
“I saw the roof crumble, and I overheard some people say the roof caved in, so we went to go find Morgan to tell her we had to leave because the roof had caved in,” Buckman said.
Buckman recalled making her way to the front of the crowd, catching a glimpse of the truck that had crashed into the entrance of the bar and the debris on the ground but did not see McCoy.
Buckman said she repeatedly called and texted McCoy trying to find her, but it wasn’t until a stranger told her a girl named Morgan had been hit that she realized McCoy wasn’t going to respond.
“That’s when I collapsed into the snow and just started crying,” Buckman said.
Buckman said it was only seconds later that she saw McCoy taken out on a stretcher, recognizing her purple jacket and blonde hair.
Scroggie did not have any further questions for Buckman.
Owners of The Pub, Jeff Zeller, and Burny’s Sports Bar, Chris Burns, were also called to the witness stand to discuss the surveillance footage captured on their security cameras.
Each bar owner was questioned about their perspective surveillance systems and asked to verify if the footage was accurate and fairly represented Catterson while in their establishments.
Rice presented two flash drives as evidence, one containing the footage from The Pub and one containing the footage from Burny’s Sports Bar. The footage showed Catterson had first gone to The Pub and then proceeded to Burny’s Sports Bar.
Rice rummages through a manila folder stuffed with papers and pulls out a receipt of Catterson’s tab from The Pub to show to the jury. During this, Catterson sat with his elbows on the defense table, shaking both legs.
The footage from Burny’s Sports Bar showed Catterson falling at one point as he tried to descend the stairs from the upper deck. The footage showed Catterson leaving the bar at 12:34 a.m. Jan. 7, 2018. Catterson watched the footage with a furrowed brow and crossed arms from behind his defense attorney.
Rice also presented a selfie McCoy had taken before the crash as evidence, followed by Catterson’s bar tab from The Pub.
After reviewing the footage from Burny’s, Prokes ended the day by reminding the jury of their responsibilities and expectations as jurors.
The trial is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday, in the Division I Courtroom in the Nodaway County Courthouse.