PORTLAND - A driver who police said was high on methamphetamine when he crashed into a car driven by a pregnant Gresham woman was found guilty Thursday of driving under the influence, assault and reckless driving.
Jack Whiteaker, 54 (pictured above), was arrested on April 15, 2010 for crashing into the then-pregnant Cayla Wilson, 19, of Gresham along SE Jenne Road. Wilson had just gone on a job interview and was only ten minutes from home when her car was struck. The crash nearly killed her and put her baby in serious jeopardy. The baby was born premature and survived.
Whitaker took the stand Thursday and denied smoking meth the day of the crash, but later admitted to smoking the drug the day before. He earlier testified that he's innocent and asked to represent himself in court, but the judge denied the request.
The jury unanimously found him guilty on all counts.
"Getting behind the wheel his brain was on fire on meth," prosecutor Chuck Sparks said Thursday in court. "Not just 500 nanograms, but doubly toxic.”
Whiteaker also repeatedly denied crashing into Cayla Wilson’s car. Then, he surprised the judge by saying he decided he wanted to represent himself so he could make closing arguments.
Whiteaker previously pleaded not guilty to several charges including assault, DUII and reckless driving.
Whiteaker testified that he had a collision with a different car and passed out. What happened after that, he said he did not know.
As for Whiteaker's request to represent himself, the judge denied it. But said he would be allowed to make a statement during closing arguments.
Wilson's mother, Denise, took the stand Wednesday.
"They told me my daughter had been in a serious accident and was transported to OHSU," Wilson said, describing the day of the crash through tears. "I didn't recognize her. They were at that point keeping my [pregnant] daughter alive to save my granddaughter."
Background: Pregnant mom critically hurt in crash
Detectives said Whiteaker was high on heroin at the time of the crash. However, Whiteaker claims that two men jumped in and out of his car before he hit Cayla's vehicle. Whiteaker also has an extensive criminal background.
An audio recording taken just after the crash was played in court Wednesday. In the recording, Whitaker can be heard telling an officer he had some kind of steering problem. When the officer asked him about a cocaine and meth pipe found in his jeep, he said someone must have put them there to "set him up."
Victim will require special care for life
Wilson survived but requires around-the clock care at a rehabilitation facility. Her baby was born premature. Wilson's family said they plan to come to the trial every day, with the infant, so Whiteaker won't forget who he hurt.
"He shouldn't have been there. He shouldn't have driving. He shouldn't have been on the road. He had no license, no insurance, no nothing," said Cayla's dad, Bill Wilson. "When this first happened, they gave her [Cayla] a one-percent chance to live and there's been no giving up. God has kept her here for a reason, and soon were gonna have her back."
Baby Jaikyla was delivered at 26 weeks, when she was just 2 lbs, 3 ounces in size, one month after the accident. She is now 20-months old and has some medical problems, but is doing relatively well, family members said.
"Sometimes her daughter will sit with her mother and give her a kiss, and then she'll kind of hold back like she's waiting for her mom to react and give her a kiss back," said Cayla's mom. "She has had a couple of words for the nurses, like 'no' or 'yeah.'"
Denise testified that Cayla has not been able to get out of bed on her own or walk since the crash.
KGW Reporter Mark Hanrahan contributed to this report