Tow truck driver’s parents believe justice wasn’t served for fallen son

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- You might assume it's impossible to kill someone with your car and not face charges, but it's happened in Jackson County.

Eighteen-year-old Blake Gresham was a tow truck driver working on the side of the Kit Bond Bridge (Interstate 35) August 27th, 2012 when he was killed by a passing trucker. The man who police say hit him, Thomas Wyatt, has never been charged.

"They've done nothing. They didn't write the guy a ticket," said James Gresham, father of Blake.

James Gresham is not mad at Kansas City, Missouri police, he's mad at Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker.

"I feel if it had been an officer or a firefighter, paramedic or something they would've charged the guy... nothing," said Gresham, adding, "As far as they're concerned, it's dropped."

Peters Baker declined to answer questions in person from FOX 4 about this case. Instead her office released this statement:

"The Jackson County Prosecutor's Office has reviewed the case several times internally. The office's Homicide Committee agreed not to prosecute and a separate attorney not involved in that review was asked to look at the case, as well as state statutes that might apply. All agreed that the office couldn't file charges based on the evidence."

Blake's parents dispute the lack of evidence. Their civil attorney, Rob Sullivan, told FOX 4 he discovered plenty of evidence when he sued Thomas Wyatt and Wyatt's trucking company.

"Quite honestly I think if it was a law enforcement officer or any other public servant, that it would've been prosecuted in a heartbeat," said Sullivan, adding, "The police officer who wrote the report testified that there was a violation of the Move Over law."

The Missouri measure demands passing cars slow down and move over a lane while passing emergency vehicles on the side of the highway. Sullivan obtained dashcam from a bus driving behind Wyatt that he says shows Wyatt never slowed his speed or moved over a lane before side-swiping Blake Gresham and the mirror on his tow truck.

Kansas City, Missouri police gave Wyatt a Breathalyzer test that showed no presence of alcohol. Sullivan said Wyatt refused a blood draw to test for the presence of drugs.  When KCPD officers asked Peters Baker's office for a search warrant, Sullivan said that police were told they lacked probable cause for a blood draw.

Under federal law, commercial trucking companies are supposed to get a blood sample from their drivers if their driver is involved in a fatal accident. Sullivan said that never happened in the Gresham case.

"Essentially the company thought the police were getting it because they took him to the hospital to get a blood test, the police assumed the company would get it," Sullivan said.

During Wyatt's videotaped civil deposition, Sullivan can be heard asking Wyatt: "Was it a concern of yours that there may be drugs in yours system?"

Wyatt replied: "I was concerned that they might find marijuana, yes."

Prosecutors can't use evidence obtained in a civil trial for a criminal prosecution, but Sullivan and Blake's parents point out there was other evidence.

Wyatt had a passenger named Daniel Lamas. In his video-tape deposition Lamas described warning Wyatt repeatedly that there was a tow truck ahead of them on the side of the bridge.

"I told Tom, 'Watch out for that truck,'" said Lamas.

When Sullivan pressed him as to whether he got a response from Wyatt, Lamas said he got no response. In the final seconds before impact, Lamas testified he was screaming at Wyatt to move over.

"I just told him, 'Oh my God, stop the truck, you just hit that man. You just hit that truck, stop the [redacted] truck,'" Lamas said.

Tow truck drivers from across the metro gathered near the Kit Bond Bridge on the one year anniversary of Blake's death, to honor his memory and to call attention to Missouri's Move Over law.

A few days after the anniversary, his parents settled with Wyatt and his trucking company for a confidential amount of money. Blake's parents told FOX 4, the dollars are meaningless.

"I told them in the settlement, 'Charge the guy and you can walk out of here,'" said James Gresham.

He has yet to cash the check. His wife Amy says she would trade the settlement in a heartbeat for criminal charges against Wyatt.

"I could care less about the money. I want something to happen to him. He has walked free from this whole thing and how is that right?" asked Amy Gresham.

FOX 4 reached out to Thomas Wyatt through his attorney and his ex-wife, but never received a response to our questions.

Email: rob.low@wdaftv4.com
Twitter: @RobLowTV

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32 comments

  • Teresa Stoffel

    This should be on his record at the very least and loss of his CDL!. This was vehicular homicide! No one should lose their life because of total lack of care or safety! I am so sorry the family has had to deal with the lack of action by the “powers” that be. As a retired driver, I couldn’t live with myself if something like this happened. I would be volunteering to be prosecuted! If he is out their still driving, I pray for the motoring public!

  • Deborah Mahoney

    Jean Peters Baker is worthless. She doesn’t like to prosecute a case that might require a little effort on her part. She pulled the same bull with the rape case in Marysville. Just lazy and stupid.

  • MIlt

    Total Tradgedy, I have had a wreck and no one else was involved in my truck and I was told I had to have a blood draw, I didn’t have a choice. What a crock. a young man dies and his parents are told Oh well. Sorry.. I would spend every dime making sure that trucking company feels some pain… as the Greshams said no $4 will ever replace Blake..

  • Robin Welsh

    My heart is with his family. I pray for some kind of justice whether it be the courts or not. Blake was my sons friend and I would want something done if it were my son. Please tell all your friends and family when they see flashing lights…..”MOVE OVER FOR BLAKE!”

  • jason

    My heart goes out to the family of the fallen driver as the k.c. towing has lost many to the same similar tragedies. As a former tow truck driver myself it still is a heart breaking sign see young drivers taken out of service way before their time.

  • Mother Of Five

    This is complete BULLCACA!!!!! How does this Wyatt f**ker sleep at night KNOWING he KILLED a young innocent man who was JUST BEGINNING his precious beautiful life? Thomas Wyatt, in my opinion, is a murderer as far as I’m concerned! And then The Jackson County Prosecutors office is FORCING the Gresham family to LIVE a life of he’ll by continually having to relive the murdering of their son on a DAILY BASIS trying to get justice for their son which in my opinion is the RIGHT thing to do….The ONLY thing to do. The only thing that will allow Blake Gresham (Rest his Soul) to FINALLY, TRULY, & WHOLLY rest in peace as he should’ve been allowed to do a year and a half ago as well ALLOW this family to actually START mourning the loss of their son which they have yet to be”ALLOWED” to do because they have to fight “the system” to get “the system” to do what “the system” would’ve most CERTAINLY done had it been ‘One of Their Own’. Well I got news for you JCPA, Blake was “ONE OF ‘OUR’ OWN”!!! So get off your A**es & do what you know you should’ve already done a long, LONG time ago! !!

  • Cheryl Parker

    I am the owner of a Towing Company in Canada. I would like to send my deepest sympathy and condolence’s to Blake’s family ( both at home and at
    Work), From my family ( both at home and at work ). This person who hit
    and killed Blake should be in prison for a long time. But the general public
    as well as most government agencies don’t look at what we do for a living, as a good or a respectable job. But what they fail to see and what we already know’s what a great, exciting, and humble jobs and/or career’s we have. Like i say as a owner. each and every one of as a Tow Tuck Operators, as well as dispatchers get treated like we are low life, uneducated, no good, stupid, waist of space. Well do i have something to tell you. I run my local police department, as well as the city contract too. I must be doing something right, right? Most of us are really tired of being disrespected and spoken ti like a piece of garbage. Yes we impound cars for being parked were they shouldn’t be, and we impound cars for things like drinking and driving, driving without a license, no insurance, etc., but we get the people of the road that cam hurt us or your family. We are also the ones who have to clean up after you have had an accident, or just mad a mess out there. Remember that these men and women deserve a lot of respect and consideration from the public and all agencies out there. So instead of having to read about how another Tow Truck Operator has been killed in the line of duty, PLEASE SLOW DOWN AND MOVE OVER….IT’S THE LAW

  • BW

    It would absolutely shock the public if citizens really knew how many cases the Jackson County, MO Prosecutors Office failed to prosecute or did prosecute at lower levels so the suspects got little or no punishment as compared to other counties in Missouri. God help ya if you committed some of these crimes in Clay or Cass Counties.

    • Tim Leu

      “noname”:

      It is considered homicide in this case because the driver of the truck failed to obey the Move Over law (intentional) and hit Blake, ending up killing him. When you intentionally break a law that kills someone, you intentionally killed that person.

  • Kathryn B

    My husband was killed in April of ’12 while working for a tow company , he was left for dead by a man that took off. Blakes parents are correct , more needs to be done , had Blake been considered a first responder , the drive would have been charged and held accountable for his actions .Its sad Tow truck drivers are not protected under the move over law . Sorry for your loss

  • Terry Roberts

    That prosecutor sold a young girl down the river because she (the prosecutor) doesn’t want to get involved in big court cases. Her idea of justice is to plea bargain everything and that means to not prosecute to the full extent of the law. Hope the people of Kansas City actually show her in the next election, just how much she is not welcome.

  • John

    There is a reason over half of Jean’s office has decided to find work elsewhere since she took office. She’s deceitful, self absorbed, and consumed with political advancement. A sad little woman, indeed. In the end her career while be quite forgettable.

  • Marcus

    Same thing happened to my best friend. He had a flat or ran out of gas and was stuck so decided to start walking when some girl hit and killed him. she was tested on site and passed then was let go with no charges. Doesn’t seem right or fair. Was an amazing person and still missed everyday.

  • Stacy

    to “noname”

    Wyatt was given plenty of notice (from his passenger) to move the heck over!
    It is total BS! It is INDEED vehicular manslaughter! That man deserves some sort of punishment for what he has done!

  • Debbie mckahan

    I bet if it was a family member of bakers, she would of prosecuted. I would say the police didnt do there job in the beggining, and the prosecutor could care less. We now no not to vote her back in office or even better figure how to get her out. Deborah’s right she botched the rape case up bad. Shes not for the people, just herself. She won’t last long. The blood should of been drawn immediately. And that dope head taken to jail.

  • another parent

    I am sorry for the family for their lose and all of Blake’s friends who miss him dearly. What a tragedy to lose such a loved kid. I try and wrap my mind around the flood of emotions that the parents must endure losing their child. I know I would get angry and at some point blame someone seeking relief. But like the money will not bring Blake back ,blood won’t either.
    Now, I realize this is going to upset some people. But parents, we have to think about the situations we put our children in and be honest about the outcome. Is it really a good place for a 18 year old boy to be out on the highway picking up a vehicle by himself? Aren’t there more experienced people working for the tow company to go do such a big job or at least escort the child out on the call? So if the child was never on the highway he never would have been hit, right Mr.Gresham? Aren’t you, yourself an experienced tow truck driver? I’m sure much more experienced than your 18 year old son. I know it is harsh and there is not a softer way to say it. But, for the life of me I still can’t understand why the youngest (I am assuming or close to it) employee on the team was sent out for this type of task. There have been several people hit on the highways for different reasons. Some have been children without the wisdom to not go near the highway. People who have had car problems and didn’t feel they had any other choice but to exit their vehicle and were struck. These are accidents and named such because of the fact there was no malicious intent to due harm. The highway is no place for people to be if they are not trained to be on them. The tow truck drivers have a risky job, unfortunately. They assume allot of the risk themselves by having such a profession. Going 55-70 mph is a large rate of speed with not a whole lot of reaction time for a driver. It has to be torture in it’s self to live with the fact that a boy (18 yr old kid) was killed and being the one responsible for his death, accident or not. That would be miserable to carry around with a person day in and day out for the rest of their life. It is a fine line putting a child in a situation he/she should not be in and expecting someone else to take full responsibility for it especially with criminal penalties. I’m sure if there was criminal behavior the police or some official would have seen to it that the driver was punished for hitting and killing a child. One official may let it go, but I am sure there would be plenty of others that would not. This type of situation would not slip threw the cracks. It is to unfortunate and sad to not punish if a crime if it was committed. I know the world is not a perfect place, but I would like to think it’s not that ugly.

      • Another parent

        I never said it was Blake’s fault. So no, really that is not what I said. Should have tried? I wish like hell the driver was able to avoid hitting anyone that day.
        I just pray you are not the judge and jury on the case, “accident”. With your close attention to detail and high level of intelligence sure won’t get one by you.

    • moveover

      Clearly you are uneducated about the way a tow company works. And how dare you try to blame his father. Knowing Blake he had more experience than people several years his age. This is what he wanted to do. And regardless of age each driver faces the same amount of risk everyday. And sadly we all know the risk of careless people. Wyatt should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. His carelessness and admitted drug use killed someone.

  • Bill

    Have worked around tow drivers for over 20 years and have ran myself. The lack of disregard and respect for them and what they do by the public and law enforcement is unbelievable, no doubt if this was one of “their own” the driver would have went straight to jail and every resource used for prosecution. This is unacceptable, speak up, sign the petition and ask everyone you know to do the same. This was a great and hardworking guy that had his life cut short, he deserves the same respect as every other first rresponder.

  • Cassie Little

    Has this been brought upto DOT . The federal government monitors truck drivers. Perhaps a call to the federal DOT or the motor carriers safety bereau may help. So sad for all involved. By Dot law a trucker has no right to refuse a drug screen it is required under law. Too late now but just an fyi for those involved with a trucler in an accident . My husband is a trucker and he sees day in and day out of people not following the get over laws