Attorney: Woman accused in fatal DUI is mentally ill, Avondale Police called before accidentMichelle Wierson. Photo provided by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office
An Avondale Estates woman accused of driving under the influence and fatally injuring a 5-year-old Decatur boy is out of jail and in a mental hospital, her attorney says.
Her attorney, Corinne Mull, says her client, Michelle Wierson, is mentally ill and does not understand what has happened. Mull says that prior to the Sept. 27 accident, her parents called Avondale Estates Police to notify them their daughter was acting strangely and had gotten behind the wheel of a car.
Avondale Estates Police confirmed that they responded to a call, but said Wierson had already left the area before they arrived at her home.
“Suffice it to say, she’s suffering. She’s bipolar and she’s suffering from psychosis and she had a psychotic break,” Mull said.
She is accused of causing an accident that fatally injured Miles Jenness, a 5-year-old Winnona Park Kindergarten student. Police allege she slammed into two vehicles with her Volkswagen on Sept. 27 around 5:14 p.m. The five year old boy and his father were riding in the first vehicle she allegedly struck, and the impact left the boy in critical condition. The accident occurred on Midway Road at South Candler Street.
According to police, after the collision Wierson began behaving erratically. She is accused of exiting her vehicle and running in and out of traffic. An off-duty DeKalb County Police Officer and an on-duty MARTA police officer happened to be in the area and stopped to help. The police report says the DeKalb County Police officer attempted to get control of her and “she began assaulting him and was grabbing and scratching at his arms.”
She was taken into custody and transported to an area hospital for evaluation and was later transported and booked into the DeKalb County Jail for the battery charge. She was later served with warrants for causing serious injury by vehicle, reckless driving, following too closely, driving under the influence and was served with a warrant for vehicular homicide a few days later after the boy’s death.
Wierson is accused of causing the accident while driving under the influence. The affidavit in support of the arrest warrant alleges that Wierson was taking a combination of Ativan, Clonazepam (also known as Klonopin) and Seroquel. WebMD says the first two are in the benzodiazepines family of drugs and are used to treat anxiety and panic attacks. Seroquel is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mood conditions, according to WebMD.
Wierson is a licensed psychologist with the state of Georgia. She specializes in family therapy, with a focus on addiction in teens and parents.
Mull said her first court hearing was held this week and was attended by 30 to 40 people who vouched for Wierson’s character.
“She’s an awfully well-regarded psychologist and human being,” Mull said. “She has helped innumerable numbers of people and that was patently clear at the hearing.”
Avondale Estates Police Chief Lynn Thomas told Decaturish that officers received a call from 911 dispatch on the day of the accident.
“The comments on the call was the woman’s daughter was having some type of episode, and she had left the residence,” Thomas said. “That’s all we had, no direction of travel.”
Two officers went to speak to her parents, but she had been gone for a while before police arrived. Thomas said the parents told her that Wierson left the home to go to her daughter’s school because she believed her daughter was in danger.
Thomas said Avondale Police called Atlanta Police to send an officer to the school to check on her daughter. Wierson had the accident on the way to her daughter’s school, Thomas said.
“It was a very unfortunate deal, it sounds like,” he said.
Mull said said Wierson’s mental state will be a part of her defense. She said the immediate goal for her client is for her to be restored to mental competency so she can defend herself in court.
“The fact [she was] psychotic when the accident occurred and before is going to figure into our defense,” Mull said.