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Police: Woman driving during crash

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VERNON — Investigators have determined that Jennings County Senior Animal Control Officer James Brewner was not driving during a fatal crash earlier this month south of Vernon.

Indiana State Police concluded that his girlfriend, Sherry Speer, 49, was behind the wheel of the 2001 Ford Explorer about 1:40 a.m. June 9 when it left State Road 7, near County Road 50S, and rolled several times, according to a media release issued Wednesday. Speer was pronounced dead at the scene.

Brewner, who suffered a broken vertebra, was released Tuesday after nine days at the University of Louisville Hospital, according to a hospital spokesperson.

State police spokesman Sgt. Noel Houze said first-responders were unable to determine who was driving, since both occupants were ejected from the vehicle. Neither Speer nor Brewner, both of North Vernon, was wearing a seat belt in the privately owned SUV, Houze said.

Police initially stated they suspected the accident was alcohol-related. A toxicology report that will determine Speer’s blood-alcohol level at the time of her death is not expected to be released until the first week of July, according to Assistant Jennings County Coroner Alden Rudicel.

Brewner’s future employment with the county likely would have been affected had police determined that Brewner was the driver, said Jennings County Commissioners President Matt Sporleder.

What remains unknown is when Brewner will resume his duties as the top animal catcher in Jennings County. Brewner will be allowed to return to work only with the approval of his physician, Sporleder said.

Assistant Animal Control Officer Heather Kessler has assumed Brewner’s responsibilities on an interim basis. Volunteers are being used to help with kennel duties at the animal shelter until it’s determined when Brewner can return, Sporleder said.

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