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UPDATE: Trooper Recovering from Hit and Run Speaks Out; Driver Pleads Guilty

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 10/28/13 @ 6:15 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The woman accused of hitting an off-duty officer with her car is now admitting to the crime by pleading guilty to malicious wounding.

Jennifer Garretson probably never thought shoplifting was a crime that would hurt anyone, but if you talk to West Virginia state trooper, Sergeant Aaron Nichols -- you'll understand how her actions changed his life forever.

“I had approximately five fractures to my skull, which went from the front all the way to the back,” Nichols said.

He spent three weeks in the hospital after Garretson hit him with her car. He was off duty at the time, but still tried to stop her from stealing from a Goody’s store -- New Year's Eve.

Needless to say, 2013 has been a rough year. “I've had strong support from my family, my friends, Clay County,” Nichols said. “The lord has taken care of me through this whole situation and continues to take care of me today.”

After much rehab and therapy, Nichols wants to hit the ground running again. Seeing justice served makes it that much easier.

“I don't regret what I did that night. I don't know that I would ever let that (shoplifting) go again," Nichols said.

Nichols says his next appointment is in December and he hopes to go back to full duty shortly after his next doctor’s appointment in December.

Garretson will be sentenced December 9. She faces two to ten years in jail.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.



UPDATE 10/28/13 @ 12 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A West Virginia State Trooper is speaking out for the first time since he was hit by a car driven by a shoplifting suspect.

Monday morning, Jennifer Garretson pleaded guilty to malicious wounding in a Kanawha County courtroom.

It happened on December 31, 2012.

State Police say Sgt. Aaron Nichols was off duty when he attempted to stop Garretson for shoplifting at a store in the St. Albans Mall.

Nichols said although he wasn't on the clock, it was his duty to try to stop her.

That's when Garretson ran over him with her vehicle and took off.

Nichols was in the hospital for about three weeks. He suffered five fractures to his skull, a broken wrist, and bleeding on the brain.

During the hearing Monday he said it's been tough on not only himself, but also his loved ones.

"It put my family through a lot. I've had to adjust to some of the issues I'm still having as a result of what happened, but I've been focused on returning to as close to 100 percent as I can," Sgt. Nichols said.

Nichols says his next appointment is in December and he hopes to be released back to full duty shortly after that.

Jennifer Garretson will also be sentenced in December. She faces 2 to 10 years behind bars.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 10/28/13 @ 9:30 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A woman who hit a West Virginia State Police trooper with her car has pleaded guilty to malicious wounding.

Jennifer Garretson made the plea in Kanawha County Circuit Court Monday morning.

She is facing 2 to 10 years in prison.

State Police say Sgt. Aaron Nichols was off duty when he attempted to stop Garretson for shoplifting at a store in the St. Albans Mall on Dec. 31, 2012.

He chased her outside then was hit by Garreston when she drove off.

Garretson will be sentenced on December 9th at 11 a.m.

The plea hearing is going on right now.

We have a crew in the courtroom.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 4/16/13
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- An Aug. 5 trial is set for a woman accused of running over a West Virginia State Police trooper with her car.

Jennifer Elaine Garretson is charged with malicious wounding and petit larceny. The Associated Press reports that the 35-year-old Garretson pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

State police say Sgt. Aaron Nichols was off duty when he attempted to stop Garretson for shoplifting at a store in the St. Albans Mall on Dec. 31, 2012. He chased her outside. Garretson is accused of hitting Nichols with her car while fleeing.

She remains in custody at the South Central Regional Jail on $150,000 bond.



UPDATE 1/22/13 @ 1:50 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A state trooper critically hurt after being hit by a car on New Year's Eve is now out of the hospital and recovering at home.

Sergeant Aaron Nichols was released Tuesday.

Police say Nichols tried to stop Jennifer Garretson from shoplifting when she hit him with her car.

Nichols suffered a traumatic head injury during the incident.

Garretson is still in jail.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/7/13 @ 7:50 a.m.
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The condition of a West Virginia State Trooper who was injured in a New Year's Eve hit and run is improving.

WSAZ.com has learned that Sergeant Aaron Nichols has been moved to a step down unit and is able to sit up and eat on his own.

Nichols was removed from a ventilator last week. He was hit by a car in St. Albans while trying to stop a woman accused of shoplifting.

The suspect, Jennifer Garretson, is scheduled to be in court next week.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/3/13 @ 11:55 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A West Virginia state trooper who was injured during a hit and run in St. Albans continues to improve at a hospital in Charleston.

Sergeant Michael Baylous tells WSAZ.com Sgt. Aaron Nichols is now breathing on his own after doctors weaned him off the ventilator.

Nichols is also a little more active and alert.

Baylous says WVSP Cpl. Jim Mitchell spoke to Nichols Thursday morning and he nodded his head that he understood.

Doctors are still monitoring Nichols' breathing to make sure he doesn't need to go back on ventilator, according to Sgt. Baylous.

Sgt. Nichols suffered a head injury on Monday when Jennifer Garretson, 34, hit him with her vehicle in a parking lot during a shoplifting incident. Nichols was off duty at the time of the incident.

Garretson turned herself in on Wednesday was charged with malicious wounding. If convicted, she faces two to ten years in prison.

Garretson is scheduled to be back in court on January 14 at 1:30 p.m. for a preliminary hearing.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/2/13 @ 6:45 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The woman accused of hitting an off-duty state trooper in the parking lot of a shopping center has been arrested.

Jennifer Garretson, 34, turned herself in Wednesday afternoon.

On New Year’s Eve, West Virginia State Police Sgt. Aaron Nichols tried to stop Garretson from shoplifting -- even though he was off duty.

“Through this situation, he continued to do his job. He just never stopped. He always tried to do what was right,” said Jake Nichols, who is Sgt. Nichols' brother.

Jake wasn't a bit surprised to hear about his brother's heroic effort. He was, however, devastated to hear the outcome.

Police say Garretson got into her car, hit Nichols with it and then kept going.

“It's no surprise at all he would put his life on the line, even when off duty,” WVSP Cpl. Jim Mitchell said.

Nichols remains in intensive care, a place he knows all too well. When his fellow officer, Trooper Eric Workman was shot in the line of duty -- he was there by his side until his last breath.

“Aaron stayed with him all the way through. He never left the family. He was always there. We tried to get him to leave, tried to get him to take some sleep. He would not do it,” Mitchell said.

Sgt. Nichols is also no stranger to violence. As a young trooper back 2002, he was assaulted when serving a domestic order.

After searching high and low, the man was found and charged.

As for suspect this time around, Garretson turned herself in Wednesday afternoon.

“We're glad that parts over with and we can focus on him getting better,” Jake Nichols said.

Sergeant Nichols' family says he's not yet able to speak, but they're glad to see he is now responsive.

His wife is even requesting that people remember the suspect in this case and what her family is going through right now.

Garretson remains in the South Central Regional Jail tonight -- charged with malicious wounding. This isn't the first time she has been in trouble.

In 2009, she spent time behind bars for repeatedly stealing money from another woman's bank account in Nitro.

According to the criminal complaint, Garretson withdrew $460 in her friend’s name and used some of that money to feed an addiction to painkillers.

Then just a few weeks later, she was charged with illegally trying to get prescription pills.

Troopers say they were able to get in touch with Garretson on her cell phone and urged her to turn herself in.

Court records say she texted police and said she needed a day to say goodbye to her children.

Garretson also admitted to hiding out at a friend's house in Institute following the hit and run.



UPDATE 1/2/13 @ 2:05 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The woman accused of hitting a West Virginia State Trooper with a car in St. Albans and then taking off has been charged with malicious wounding.

Jennifer Garretson, 34, of St. Albans, was arraigned on the charge Wednesday afternoon in Kanawha County Magistrate Court. During the hearing, Garretson didn't have much to say.

Police say Sergeant Aaron Nichols was off duty when he tried to stop Garretson in the parking lot of Goody's Department store following a shoplifting incident. Instead of stopping, Garretson hit Sgt. Nichols with her car and then drove off.

According to the criminal complaint, Garretson struck Sgt. Nichols with the vehicle and to minimize impact Nicholas jumped on the trunk of the vehicle.

A witness say that's when Garretson drove recklessly in a circle until Nichols was thrown from the car resulting blunt force trauma to his head.

Garretson has been on the run since Monday. She finally turned herself in to two troopers assigned to the Bureau of Criminal Investigations on Wednesday. Investigators say Garretson told them she has been hiding out at a friend's house in Institute.

A trooper investigating the case obtained Garretson cellphone number on Monday and sent her a text asking her to call him.

According to the complaint, Garretson responded by saying "give her a day to say goodbye to her two children and that she would turn herself in." The trooper then tried to call Garretson, but she didn't answer. Then, Garretson responded in a text stating "he jumped on my car."

Sergeant Nichols remains in the intensive care unit after the incident, but is now in stable condition.

Garretson was charged with malicious wounding and the magistrate set a personal recognizance bond for $150,000. If convicted, she faces two to 10 years in prison.

Garretson is scheduled to be back in court on January 14 at 1:30 p.m. for a preliminary hearing.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/2/13 @ 1:13 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The woman accused of hitting a West Virginia State Trooper with a car and then taking off has been arrested.

Sergeant Michael Baylous tells WSAZ.com Jennifer Garretson, 34, was arrested Wednesday after she turned herself in to two troopers assigned to the Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

WVSP officials say Sergeant Aaron Nichols remains in the intensive care unit after the incident, but is now in stable condition.

Troopers have been searching for Garretson since the incident. They say Garretson was shoplifting in St. Albans on Monday night. Nichols was off duty at the time, but tried to stop her. That's when she hit him with her car and fled the scene.

This isn't the first time Nichols has become a victim of violence when simply doing his job.

Back in 2002, he was serving a domestic order when he was attacked by Phillip Kisamore. Police had to hunt Kisamore down before he was finally indicted for assault and domestic battery.

As for the suspect during Monday night's incident, Garretson is still on the run. WSAZ.com has been digging into her past to see if she's ever done anything like this before and we found there are a couple of forgery accusations.

According to court records, in 2009 Garretson admitted to several felony counts saying she repeatedly stole money from another woman's bank account.

No word on what charges she will face for Monday's alleged crime.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/2/13 @ 12 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia State Police has released the name of the trooper hit by a car on New Year's Eve.

WVSP officials say Sergeant Aaron Nichols remains in the intensive care unit, but is now in stable condition.

Troopers are still searching for the woman who hit Nichols. They say Jennifer Garretson, 34, was shoplifting in St. Albans on Monday night. Nichols was off duty at the time, but tried to stop her. That's when she hit him with her car and fled the scene.

This isn't the first time Nichols has become a victim of violence when simply doing his job.

Back in 2002, he was serving a domestic order when he was attacked by Phillip Kisamore. Police had to hunt Kisamore down before he was finally indicted for assault and domestic battery.

As for the suspect during Monday night's incident, Garretson is still on the run. WSAZ.com has been digging into her past to see if she's ever done anything like this before and we found there are a couple of forgery accusations.

According to court records, in 2009 Garretson admitted to several felony counts saying she repeatedly stole money from another woman's bank account.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/2/13 @ 9:40 a.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia State Police has released the name of the trooper hit by a car on New Year's Eve.

WVSP officials say Sergeant Aaron Nichols remains in the intensive care unit -- but is now in stable condition.

Troopers are still searching for the woman who hit Nichols. They say Jennifer Garretson, 34, was shoplifting in St. Albans. Nichols was off duty at the time, but tried to stop her. That's when she hit him with her car and fled the scene.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/1/13 @ 11:22 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A West Virginia State Police trooper is in critical condition after getting hit by a car driven by a shoplifting suspect.

Officials say the trooper, whose name has not been released, is still in intensive care but has been showing signs of improvement -- becoming responsive and beginning to recognize faces again. But, they say he's still a long way from recovery.

The suspect is sought for slamming into the trooper in the St. Albans shopping center parking lot Monday evening and driving off.

Police say Jennifer Garretson, 34, was caught stealing from the Goody's store along MacCorkle Avenue. Investigators say she would have faced a citation but after everything unfolded, she's now facing much more serious charges.

The trooper was off duty at the time of the shoplifting.

"It's a moral obligation -- because we're trained as law enforcement officers to keep the peace in a civil society," WVSP Sergeant Michael Baylous said.

Three witnesses told St. Albans Police what they saw happen. They described seeing the trooper run out of the store after Garretson when she jumped into her rusted out, dark blue Honda Civic, threw the car into reverse and hit the trooper. He was thrown onto the hood, then onto the pavement; suffering several injuries including head trauma, according to police.

"They described in detail that she was sitting upright in the car -- with both hands on the steering wheel in a very, very purposeful manner," Captain James Agee said. "They saw something that was very horrific and it affected them deeply."

Through the night and into the morning, the law enforcement community pulled together and waited to receive word as their brother was left in intensive care following the incident. Police tell WSAZ.com his condition is slowly improving.

Investigators found Garretson's car late Monday at a housing complex on Miracle Drive -- her last known address. She is still no where to be found.

Police say it's not if, but when this suspect will be brought to justice.

"My suggestion for her would be to immediately turn yourself in to law enforcement and take responsibility for your actions," Baylous said.

Jennifer Garretson is 5 feet, 7 inches tall, with brown eyes and medium length sandy-brown hair. She was last seen wearing a long sleeve pink shirt and boots.

WSAZ.com went to her last two known addresses in search of answers and found that one of them in Charleston's East End is a home for women in recovery of drugs and alcohol. They couldn't release any information because of HIPPA privacy laws.

The other address, on Miracle Dr. in St. Albans, was the home of her ex-boyfriend. He didn't want to talk on camera but said he's surprised about the allegations and that he had only been dating her for a short time.

"You know, I don't know. Like I said, I don't know what she did. A couple months doesn't really give you time to really get to figure, I guess, figure someone out -- as well as you'd like," said Garretson's ex-boyfriend who didn't want to be identified.

The ex-boyfriend said the last time he saw her was Monday morning when she left his house sometime between 10 a.m. and noon.

"The only thing I know is she went to Teay's Valley. She usually goes down there every now and then to see a friend," Garretson's ex-boyfriend said.

He told WSAZ.com that police were at his house until the early hours of Tuesday morning asking him questions about Garretson, but her whereabouts still remain a mystery.

If you know where Garretson is, call 911.

State Police say nationally, violence against troopers went down in 2012, but that doesn't seem to be the case in West Virginia.

Troopers say visiting the trooper and his family at CAMC General brought back haunting memories of being there a few months earlier for the shooting deaths of Cpl. Marshall Bailey and Trooper Eric Workman.

Cpl. Bailey and Trooper Workman were gunned down by Luke Baber in August after they pulled him over in Clay County for erratic driving.

"It brings back a lot of raw emotions," Sgt. Baylous said. "It's tough on these men and women out here in law enforcement, but it's not just impacting West Virginia State Police. It's impacting all law enforcement and first responders."

Back in May, Cpl. Andrew Loudin was shot in Elkins by William Dumire while interviewing him about a case - yet another example of a trooper attacked in the line of duty.

"This is a job where you always have to be on alert, and if your guard is down for one second, it can be deadly," Sgt. Baylous said.

Keep clicking WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/1/13 @ 2 p.m.
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A West Virginia state trooper is still in the hospital after being hit by a car in St. Albans.

Police tell WSAZ.com, Jennifer Garretson, 34 hit an off-duty West Virginia state trooper with her car in the parking lot of the St. Albans Mall, Monday evening.

Police say Garretson drove off after hitting the trooper.

The trooper was taken to the hospital, where he is in the intensive care unit. His name has not been released.

Police say Garretson's car was found at an apartment complex on Miracle Drive, near St. Albans. That's Garretson's most recent address, according to police.

If you know where Garretson is, you are asked to call 911.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Jennifer Garretson, 34, is a person of interest in a hit-and-run that landed an off-duty state trooper in the intensive care unit.

According to West Virginia State Police, about 4:30 p.m. Monday an off-duty trooper tried to apprehend a suspected shoplifter in the parking lot near the Goody's at the St. Albans' Mall. The suspect hit the trooper with her car and drove off.

The suspect's car is described as a small dark colored, possibly flat black, compact car with rust on the bottom.

The trooper is in intensive care at CAMC General in Charleston with serious injuries. His name has not been released.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


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