Victim's father: "Just watch out for bicycles, guys. Chelsea was a beautiful young lady"

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by Nakia Cooper/ KHOU.com

khou.com

Posted on February 6, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 6 at 6:40 PM

HOUSTON – The attorney for the woman accused of fatally striking Chelsea Norman declared his client’s innocence at a Harris County courthouse Thursday while the victim’s family demonstrated strength as their daughter’s accused killer sat just inches away.

Margaret Ann Mayer, 35, appeared before a Harris County judge Thursday morning on her failure to stop and render aid charge. She is accused of leaving the scene after fatally striking Norman, who was riding her bicycle home from work.

On December 1, Norman left her job at Whole Foods Market and was riding her bike southbound in the 1500 block of Waugh around 10:20 p.m. when she was struck by a vehicle. The driver never stopped, leaving the 24-year-old cyclist lying in the road.

Norman was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital, but died days later from her injuries. Her death sparked outrage among the cycling community.

HPD received multiple tips in the case, which eventually led them to Mayer and charges were eventually filed. Mayer was taken into custody on February 5, but bonded out shortly after.

Norman’s family was present as Mayer made her courtroom appearance, even sitting on the same bench. The victim’s father said it was very tough.

“She had actually gone into the restroom as the same time as my wife. It’s hard to see someone walking around like that when your daughter’s been dead because of her driving intoxicated by her own admission, from what I’ve heard,” Randy Norman said. “Sometimes you have to depend on faith and sometimes you have to grit and do what you need to do, but this is the beginning of the process where we can actually see that the person that did it takes responsibility for her actions.”

But Mayer’s attorney said prosecutors have the wrong person.

“The death of Ms. Norman is a terrible tragedy and for the state to charge someone with no evidence is a tragedy. It’s compounding. She had cooperated fully from the beginning,” said Guy Womack, defense attorney. “She gave them her truck to examine. They examined the truck piece by piece. They disassembled it at the crime lab, kept if for about four weeks. Proved to a scientific certainty there is nothing linking her truck to this terrible accident. It was a terrible accident, but Ms. Mayer was not a part of it and we intend to prove that.”

Evidence gathered by investigators and statements from Mayer’s own friends have prosecutors believing that Mayer is responsible.

A friend of Mayer’s told police that on the night of the accident, she and Mayer had been out drinking at a bar together. She said the next day, Mayer told her that she had gotten lost on Waugh and believed she might have hit someone because her window was shattered, but couldn’t quite remember because she was very intoxicated, according to court documents.

Investigators tracked down Mayer at her job and saw damage to her vehicle consistent with having been in a collision. During questioning, she admitted that she had been in the area on the night of the crash, but vaguely remembered how she got home, according to court documents.

Mayer said she did remember crashing into one of her friend’s vehicles earlier in the evening, but had since paid him for the damages. She said she did not remember being involved in any other collision after that.

Regarding her truck, Mayer initially denied having any repairs made, but later admitted to having her windshield, a headlight and her brakes fixed.

Investigators went to the shop that repaired the windshield and obtained surveillance video of Mayer coming and going. They also received a sales receipt of the windshield repair. Investigators then spoke to the repairman at the brake shop.

Mayer’s neighbor told investigators that on the night of the accident, Mayer returned home around 11 p.m. and had damage to her vehicle. The neighbor said when she went over to help, she saw a “gooey yellow substance” on the hood of the truck and a piece of blue denim was also attached to it. The neighbor then helped Mayer call her mother to tell her about the incident.

Investigators spoke to Mayer’s brother’s girlfriend, who said that Mayer’s mother told her about the crash. She then said she let Mayer borrow her car while hers was being repaired.

Investigators learned Mayer’s brother was in the Harris County Jail and requested his phone calls. In a recorded conversation, Mayer’s mother and brother could be heard talking about the crash, referencing Mayer as “Auntie M,” saying she was drunk when she hit a bike.

A warrant was then issued for the search and seizure of Mayer’s vehicle. DNA swabs were taken as evidence and matched to the victim’s DNA.

Mayer remains free on bond and the judge granted her request to move to Austin with her family as she awaits trial. She must have an intoxilyzer in her vehicle while she drives.

As for the victim’s family, Randy Norman has a special way he wants people to remember Cheslea.

“On one of the channels last night, there was a short clip when she left Whole Foods. She turned, smiled her usual infectious smile and waved goodbye,” he said. “That is what I would like people to remember about her. Just watch out for bicycles, guys. Chelsea was a beautiful young lady.”

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