One student dead, one charged with death by vehicle

David Arthur Engelmann

HICKORY, N.C. – Five search warrants executed by the Hickory Police Department this week involving the investigation into a crash that killed a Hickory High School student were returned to Hickory District Court on Friday.

On Tuesday, two days after the crash, Hickory Master Police Officer Amanda F. Efird applied for four search warrants relating to Hickory High School senior David Engelmann’s car wreck Sunday evening.

Efird wrote she was not able to observe blood evidence in the vehicle when she arrived on the scene at 8:13 p.m. Sunday due to “poor lighting conditions,” the search warrant said. Sunset was at 7:55 p.m.

AT 2:15 p.m. Monday, Efird said she inspected the vehicle at K&M Collision, where it was towed.

“I observed, in plain view due to the damage to the vehicle, what appeared to be blood on the inside driver side A pillar, on the inside passenger side just in front of the B pillar, and also on the rear driver side door,” Efird wrote.

Efird requested the vehicle be moved to City of Hickory Public Works for storage to preserve evidence she said shows the vehicle was involved in the fatal crash. Items Efird requested to seize included, “fingerprints, blood, hair fibers, clothing or clothing fibers, paperwork to show ownership or possession of the vehicle, any alcohol or drug related items, any receipts … photographs of the exterior and interior of the vehicle,” and any other evidence connecting the vehicle to the crash, the search warrant said.

In the second search warrant, Efird wrote that she spoke with Engelmann and his parents Sunday night at the Catawba Valley Medical Center Emergency Room. Efird advised Engelmann of his charges and she charged him with failing to wear a seat belt, an item Engelmann’s mother reportedly disputed.

“David Engelmann’s mother, stated he had his seat belt on, and proceeded to unfasten the top of the hospital gown to show bruising across David Engelmann’s left shoulder extending down across his chest,” Efird wrote. “This bruising is consistent with a driver of a motor vehicle wearing a seat belt.”

The second search warrant lists photographs of Engelmann and saliva DNA samples as items investigators wanted to seize. Investigators plan to use DNA evidence to show Englemann was the driver, the warrant shows. The second search warrant also shows it was delivered to Steve Brackett, Engelmann’s attorney who appeared in court for the defendant Wednesday morning.

Investigators also requested a third search warrant that would allow them to search the Engelmanns’ home. Efird again requested to take photographs and acquire saliva DNA samples.

The fourth search warrant investigators applied for Tuesday indicates two cellphones – one Verizon Samsung Galaxy S III and one Verizon iPhone 5c – were in possession of police. Both phones were found in the driver’s seat, the warrant shows. Investigators requested permission to seize call logs, contacts, text messages, emails, pictures and geotagging information, videos, audio files calendar information and Internet history, among other items, the search warrant shows.

“Currently, it is unknown where David Engelmann and Jay Robertson II were coming from,” Efird wrote. “Through my training and experience, teenagers will often use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and text to assimilate information on what they are actively participating in.”

Robertson, a 17-year-old Hickory High student, died in the crash. His funeral was Thursday.

On Thursday afternoon, Efird requested the fifth search warrant that was obtained at Hickory District Court on Friday. It requests another search of the Subaru Forester. Unlike the previous search, when the main focus seemed to be DNA evidence, blood stains, clothing fibers and paperwork, investigators seized the front driver and passenger seat belts and photographs of electronic data information, the warrant showed.

Engelmann was charged with felony death by motor vehicle and four misdemeanors: driving while impaired, possession of an open container, driving after consumption by a provisional licensee and careless and reckless driving. His probable cause hearing is scheduled for Sept. 24 at Catawba County District Court in Newton.

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