Hearing set on mental condition of driver charged with manslaughter

A hearing has been set for later this month dealing with the mental condition of a Mountain Home woman charged with manslaughter stemming from a June 12th, 2018 auto accident. The accident caused injuries to an expectant mother and lead to the death of her baby.

Deputy Public Defender Mark Cooper represents 44-year-old Michele Lynn Wood. He said during a session of Baxter County Circuit Court Thursday the report on a recent mental evaluation of Wood had just been received, was voluminous and needed to be thoroughly reviewed by lawyers on both sides.

Circuit Judge Gordon Webb set Feb. 21st as the date for the hearing which could determine if Wood is fit to proceed with her cases and can be held criminally responsible for her actions.

Cooper had filed a notice of intent to rely on the defense of mental disease and defect on July 12th last year.

According to court records, Wood is said to have exhibited bizarre behavior while locked up in the Baxter County Detention Center, including screaming loudly on a nonstop basis. She was also said to have pounded very hard on her isolation cell door for days at a time.

Her speech was described as little more than "rambling nonsense."

According to the probable cause affidavit filed in the case, the 44-year-old Wood is charged with driving in a reckless manner prior to the accident last year as she made her way through a wide swath of the county. A number of calls were made to 911 reporting her progress, as well as to provide information on her erratic activity both inside and outside her vehicle.

Eventually, a witness reported Wood's vehicle had passed him at a high rate of speed in the area of the Mountain Home square. As it went around a curve a short distance from the courthouse, her car collided with another vehicle. A passerby rushed a female passenger in the car hit by Wood to Baxter Regional Medical Center. The woman was eight months pregnant at the time of the crash.

The victim was immediately taken into surgery after reaching BRMC, and a female baby was delivered. The baby was transferred to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, where she died after being taken off life support about two days later.

Bodycam video recorded at the scene of the accident shows a passenger in Wood's car telling police after the collision, "She was driving way too fast for conditions coming around that curve. I told her to slow down."

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