KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Knox County Juvenile Court judge found probable cause Tuesday morning to proceed with a trial on some but not all charges against a 16-year-old fugitive accused of causing a crash that killed a pastor and his wife.
As a result, Judge Tim Irwin said he'd hear more evidence against Mekiah T. Davis on Dec. 9.
Davis, meanwhile, will continue to be held in county juvenile custody. He sat Tuesday morning in court, saying little.
"He's not going anywhere," the judge said Tuesday.
Davis, then age 15, crashed head-on into Ruben and Belinda Wilson while driving a stolen Chevy 350 pickup Sept. 10 on Mascot Road off Asheville Highway, authorities allege. Witnesses estimated he was driving as fast as 80 mph and passing a vehicle on Mascot Road when the crash occurred.
Riding with him was 20-year-old Austin Tipton, who has been accused of stealing at least one vehicle in Jefferson County.
At the time Davis was an escapee after being found delinquent of charges in another county, court testimony showed Tuesday.
Knox County prosecutors charged Davis with two counts of felony murder in the deaths of the Wilsons. Belinda Wilson, 68, was driving a Ford SUV at the time of the crash, and Ruben Wilson, 76, was a front-seat passenger.
Their 4-year-old granddaughter Hallie Nicely also was in the vehicle.
The Wilsons died in the crash, according to testimony from Knox County Sheriff's Office Deputy Glenn Simerly. Hallie suffered injuries that required her to be taken to University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Wilson was a longtime pastor at Three Points Baptist Church in Knoxville.
With Davis at the wheel, the stolen truck hit the Wilsons even as Belinda Wilson tried to steer their vehicle to the shoulder, according to testimony Tuesday.
Witnesses saw Davis crawl out of the pickup and try to run away before collapsing to the ground, according to Simerly. Tipton had to be removed from the pickup and later told authorities he remembered nothing about what happened.
Inside the Chevy, stolen from a man in Morristown, authorities found a glass pipe and what appeared to be methamphetamine, Simerly said. It's still being tested, and blood drawn from Davis also is still being checked for the presence of drugs.
Davis was airlifted from the scene. He suffered injuries so severe he couldn't speak with investigators.
Tipton was taken by ambulance to a hospital. Tipton has not been charged in connection with the incident, Simerly said.
Besides felony murder, prosecutors charged Davis after the crash with criminal trespassing, theft of property over $10,000 but less than $60,000, vandalism and escape while being held for a felony.
On Monday, the prosecution filed new charges --- vehicular homicide in the deaths of the Wilsons and vehicular assault in connection with Hallie's injuries. The judge did not consider Tuesday whether there was probable cause to hold a trial on the new charges.
Simerly was the state's only witness, called Tuesday morning by prosecutor Justin Pruitt.
Irwin told Pruitt he'd convinced him through the deputy's testimony that there was enough proof to hold a trial on the theft and escape charges.
But, as Assistant Public Defender Christina Kleiser argued, he said he needed more proof about the Chevrolet theft before he could rule on whether Davis's crime was legally strong enough to constitute felony murder.
Irwin said he'd heard no proof to back charging Davis with trespassing or vandalism.
The judge said the prosecution could drop the felony murder petitions and proceed with the vehicular homicide petitions if it wanted. He instructed lawyers to prepare to discuss the case more Dec. 5 at a hearing.
Davis's mother, members of the victims' family and personnel from the state Department of Children's Services were present during Tuesday's hearing.
"I'm sorry for your loss," Irwin said to Wilson family members as he concluded the preliminary hearing.