CLEVELAND-- The ex-boyfriend of a woman found on a downtown freeway said he did not push her, claiming she fell from his SUV during an argument. Court records echoed most of his story, but the victim’s family is not believing his version of events.
"He was shaken, he was... physically crying, physically sick," said defense attorney Leif Christman.
Christman said his client, 28-year-old Patrick Carner, feels terrible, but is not responsible for the death of his ex-girlfriend, 21-year-old Vonnashia Akins. He said during evening rush hour on Monday, Carner was in a rented Ford Explorer, driving Akins to her first day of nursing school on Intestate 90 westbound downtown, when the two began to argue.
"She became very upset and by the time they're up towards the Carnegie exit, she's threatening to jump out of the vehicle. She opened the door, Patrick grabbed her by the arm and there was apparently a struggle about keeping her in the vehicle," Christman said.
Carner's attorney said he tried to pull off to the shoulder while holding Akins and keeping the SUV under control. He said he lost his grip and she fell onto the highway.
"It's very sad, but her reckless behavior is what ultimately led to the tragedy," he said.
Christman said Carner pulled over, flagged down two drivers and noticed Akins was in bad shape.
"He panicked, he shouldn't have and we'll have to face the consequences for that... Panicked, got back in his vehicle and left... He did call 911," the attorney said.
Akins' family is not buying his explanation.
"Why he didn't wait for the police, why he didn't wait for the ambulance, why he didn't sit there with her and do like the other people did and try to put pressure on her to help her, why he leave? that don't make sense," said Wendy Stephens, Vonnashia’s grandmother.
According to an arrest warrant, Carner, "called 911 and provided false information."
"I never could see her want to jump out no moving vehicle. She's not gonna do that. What he's saying is not true," Stephens said.
"It would be nearly impossible for somebody driving with one hand, to push another person out of a vehicle, especially talking about a big SUV to somehow reach over to open the door, to push her out of the vehicle... It defies logic," Christman said.
Carner is being held at the Cuyahoga County jail, charged with tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice, which are both felonies.
His attorney said he and Akins had been dating since July 4 and broke up about a week ago. Her relatives said she leaves behind a 4-year-old daughter and was pregnant with her second child.