Warrant alleges driver accused of fatally injuring 5-year-old took combination of prescription drugsMichelle Wierson. Photo provided by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office
A warrant for the arrest of an Avondale Estates woman accused of driving under the influence alleges that she had ingested a combination of prescription drugs before the accident.
Michelle Wierson, 52, lives in Avondale Estates. She is currently in jail. Attempts to reach her have been unsuccessful. She has requested a public defender, records show, but it is not known who will be representing her.
A review of public records by Decaturish reveals that she is a licensed psychologist with the state of Georgia. A phone number for her business also appears at the end of an article published on the MARR Addiction Treatment Center website. The number is also associated with her home address in Avondale Estates.
Her biography at the end of the MARR article states, “Michelle Wierson, PhD earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in Child Clinical Psychology at the University of Georgia. She is a professor emeritus of Pomona College and Claremont Graduate University, and serves as a psychological consultant for the Georgia Department of Labor. A licensed psychologist in the States of Georgia and California, Dr. Wierson specializes in family therapy and the treatment of adolescents, including a focus on addiction in teens and parents.”
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 and driving under the influence. More charges are pending following the boy’s death.
The affidavit in support of the arrest warrant alleges that Wierson was taking a combination of Ativan, Clonazepam (also known as Klonopin) and Seroquel. (Seroquel is written as “seroquem” on the accident report. There is no drug by that name.) 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.
Dr. Richard Stripp, an expert witness who testifies in DUI cases, says taking either Ativan or Clonazepam would’ve impaired someone’s ability to drive.
“They’re drugs that will impair a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle,” he said. “They’re central nervous system depressants, and they would impair one’s ability to perform divided attention tasks such as operating a motor vehicle. Certainly, in combination, the drugs would have an even greater effect.”
Stripp said Ativan or Clonazepam are not usually taken simultaneously.
“They’re basically the same class of drugs,” he said. “It’s unlikely one would have a need to take both Klonopin and Ativan.”
Stripp said Seroquel wouldn’t impair someone’s ability to drive to the extent Ativan and Clonazepam would, but said the side effects could be more pronounced when someone first starts taking them.
None of the drugs are known to cause aggressive behavior that Wierson allegedly displayed following the accident, he said.
“It doesn’t necessarily sound like the drugs themselves would cause bizarre behavior like that,” he said. “It’s hard to say what would’ve triggered that type of behavior.”
Wierson will have a preliminary hearing on Oct. 5 at 1 p.m.
Funeral visitation for Jenness will be Saturday, October 6, from 1 p.m.–4 p.m. at A.S. Turner & Sons, located at 2773 North Decatur Road Decatur, GA 30033. The visitation will be followed by a Popsicle Pokémon Dance Party Celebration of Miles’s life on Oct. 6 from 4:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m., at McKoy Park, located at 1000 Adams Street, Decatur, GA.