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'He didn't get justice.' A fatal car crash, a driver's arrest and the DUI that disappeared.

Driver's BAC was originally found to be .082, but a blood test hours later led to the criminal case's unraveling
Repine fatal accident
Posted at 3:50 PM, Jul 10, 2024

HARRISON TWP., Mich. (WXYZ) — The call came in at 4:44 on the afternoon of November 12. Darci Repine had been behind the wheel, heading west on Metropolitan Parkway in Harrison Township when she struck a man using this crosswalk.

“It looks like a driver hit a biker or something,” a caller reported to 911. “It’s a bad accident, it doesn’t look like he’s moving.”

But the victim, 50-year-old Frank Wojtal, wasn’t riding a bicycle. It would take sheriff’s deputies several minutes to realize he was in a wheelchair.

Wojtal, a father of five and grandfather of two, suffered from cerebral palsy. The driver said she never saw him. Wojtal was pronounced dead at the hospital.

“I didn’t see anything,” Repine told a sheriff’s deputy, according to body camera video. “I pulled (my visor) down. I saw nobody.”

Repine said the glare of the sun—hanging low in the sky—made it hard to see the road in front of her. Other drivers near the accident would report the same thing.

But a Macomb County Sheriff’s Deputy said he could “smell the odor of intoxicants” coming from Repine as she spoke, and she would admit she was drinking just before the crash.

“So when was your last drink?” a deputy asked.

“Oh, it wasn’t that long ago to be perfectly honest. I have my food at home. But doesn’t matter at this point,” she responded.

The deputy would perform a field sobriety test, noting that that Repine couldn’t balance during the instructions, swayed during one of the tests and struggled to perform the heel-to-toe test.

“She stayed at the scene, cooperated with the investigation and, obviously through our investigation, we saw signs of intoxication,” said Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham.

A breathalyzer test revealed her blood alcohol content to be just over the legal limit, at .082

Repine was arrested, charged with operating while intoxicated and causing a death, a 15-year felony.

“She admitted to drinking, she failed the breath test, she failed the sobriety test, she showed lack of balance,” said attorney David Femminineo, who filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of Frank Wojtal’s family. “There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that alcohol played a huge factor in Frank Wojtal’s death.”

Or maybe there was. As the family would learn, while a portable breath test is enough to arrest you, its results aren’t admissible in court. Only a more precise test, like a blood draw at a hospital, is.

That would take hours to obtain.

But by the time deputies were able to write up a warrant for Repine’s blood, transport her to the hospital, get the warrant signed by a judge and find a nurse to take the blood, 2 hours and 9 minutes had passed since the crash.

By then, Repine’s BAC had fallen to .053, now comfortably below the legal limit.

With those numbers, Macomb County Prosecutor Pete Lucido wasn’t sure he could convict Repine of the 15-year felony. So he hired a toxicologist to try to bolster his case.

Dr. Michele Glinn, who retired from Michigan State Police, estimated Repine’s level of impairment at the time of crash to be a .083—almost identical to what the portable test showed. But depending on her metabolism, the doctor said it could be as high as a .11, or a low as a .073.

Lucido wasn’t convinced he could win, so he dropped the charge from a 15-year felony to a low-level misdemeanor. In June, Repine was sentenced to 7 days in jail.

“I don’t feel a week is enough justice for our family,” said Susan Wojtal, Frank’s widow.

“I really feel it starts from the very beginning, from those that were at the scene and should have been doing what they needed to do to start with the correct processing of getting the evidence,” she said.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham says he understands the family’s fury, but that his deputies followed policy.

"We’re working for the family. We’re working for the individual that’s deceased,” he said. “And I think they tried their best.”

While Repine consented to a blood draw—meaning a warrant wasn’t necessary—Wickersham says policy dictates that they get one anyway, in case a defendant later claims they never gave consent.

Still, he acknowledges there were delays, like 33 minutes that passed between faxing out the warrant and getting it back.

“Presented with this again, things may be a little different,” Wickersham said. “Maybe somebody’s going to say send a deputy to the hospital. Watch (Repine). I’m going to drive over to the magistrate’s home and get this (warrant) signed.”

Through her attorney, Darci Repine declined to comment for this story. She served her 7-day sentence and was released the same day 7 News spoke with Wojtal’s family.

“I don’t know how long, if I can ever get over this,” said Wojtal’s wife. “Especially since he didn’t get justice.”

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.