'He wanted to die': Man accused of murder in Arnprior crash testifies in his own defence
OTTAWA -- The man charged in the first degree murder of 65-year-old Sheila Welsh testified in his own defence at the Ottawa Courthouse Tuesday.
The crown is accusing 22-year-old Zachary Wittke of Eganville of intentionally slamming a stolen truck into Welsh’s car, killing her, in Arnprior in September of 2017.
Wittke testified that he never intended to collide into Welsh’s vehicle. He told the court he thought it was a barricade.
In his opening remarks, Wittke’s defence lawyer, Paolo Giancaterino, told jurors that hitting an actual motor vehicle was not his client’s intention and that the last thing he wanted to do was to kill Welsh. Instead, Giancaterino told jurors Wittke was suicidal.
“His sole intention behind his actions was to take his own life,” Giancaterino said.
Wittke told the court about the struggles he was facing at that time. He said he had no money and was frustrated by friends and relationships.
When he stole a truck on the day of the fatal crash, he testified that he "wanted to die".
It was following a police pursuit that Wittke says he lost his glasses while driving. He said his vision was not clear, but that he thought he saw a construction barricade and decided to accelerate into it.
“I decided I was going to commit suicide, I was going to drive into it,” Wittke testified.
Wittke testified that he did not know that he had struck Welsh’s vehicle until later on. He testified that had he have known it was Welsh inside of a vehicle and not a barricade, he would have swerved.
Giancaterino did not dispute that Wittke was responsible for a death, but told jurors to consider manslaughter.
“Mr. Wittke is guilty of a crime but not the one the crown says he is guilty of,” Giancaterino told the jury.
Wittke told the court he suffered a collapsed lung, a concussion and received lacerations in the incident. He stayed in hospital for several days.
Wittke described to jurors in detail a separate incident in 2016 where he tried to take his life. He says he stole a truck then too and grabbed a knife before making a Facebook video where he described himself as homicidal and suicidal.
Wittke testified that police eventually caught up with him inside a store when he decided to use the knife on himself. He was taken to hospital and later sentenced to jail.
The crown says Wittke was only out of custody for 37 days before stealing a truck again, this time colliding with Welsh’s vehicle and killing her.
At the beginning of trial, Crown Attorney Robin Flumerfelt told jurors that Wittke intentionally slammed into Welsh’s car.
Today, the Crown said Welsh had gotten into Wittke’s way and he smashed head on into an innocent person.
The crown will continue cross examination Wednesday.
Wittke has pleaded not guilty to first degree murder.