Man charged in woman's death misses court date due to being arrested in Unicoi County

By Abby Morris

Star Staff

   A man charged in connection with an August 2002 car accident that left one woman dead and two children injured missed his court appearance on Monday due to being arrested in Unicoi County on unrelated charges.
   According to Elizabethton Police Department Patrolman Michael Merritt, Joshua David Whitehead, 24, 227 Centerview Drive, was scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court for a preliminary hearing but was absent from the courtroom.
   "When it came time for the hearing, he was no where to be found," Merritt said. "We were informed by the Unicoi County Sheriff's Department on Monday that he was taken into custody there."
   A police report from the Unicoi County Sheriff's Department states that Whitehead was arrested at approximately 11 a.m. on Monday at a gas station on Temple Hill Road and charged with second offense DUI, reckless driving, possession of Schedule II narcotics, possession of a legend drug, violation of the implied consent law and violation of the vehicle registration law. He is scheduled to appear in Unicoi County General Sessions Court April 10.
   According to the report, Whitehead advised the officer that he had just come from a methadone clinic in Asheville, N.C.
   While Whitehead was being taken into custody in Unicoi County, he was scheduled to appear in Carter County General Sessions Court on two counts of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle and one county of vehicular homicide.
   Whitehead was originally charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle, but one of those counts was upgraded to vehicular homicide at Whitehead's initial court appearance because one of the injured victims, Teresa Sims, 35, later died as a result of injuries she sustained in the accident.
   The accident occurred on Aug. 28, 2002, at approximately 9 p.m. on West Elk Avenue in front of the Inland Containers facility, Merritt said. "Mr. Whitehead was driving a Jeep Cherokee traveling North on West Elk Avenue. He left those northbound lanes, crossed the center line and struck a vehicle that was traveling south on that same highway," Merritt said.
   The other vehicle was an Oldsmobile Silhouette van driven by Sims, whose two young sons were also in the car with her. Hutch Sims, who was four years old at the time, was seriously injured in the accident and was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center by Wings Air Rescue.
   Hutch sustained two broken legs and a serious head injury in the accident. His brother, 11-year-old Michael, sustained minor injuries and was treated at Sycamore Shoals Hospital. Mrs. Sims was also transported to the Johnson City Medical Center by Wings Air Rescue. "Mrs. Sims died in the early morning of Aug. 29 at the Medical Center," Merritt said.
   Sims also had a daughter, April, a student at Hampton High School, who was not in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
   Whitehead appeared to be under the influence of some medication when the accident occurred, Merritt said, but he was not charged with DUI.
   Whitehead's court appearance has been rescheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Friday in General Sessions Court.