Daniel Greis said he was terrified as he drove side by side with Jesse Phillips on Staffordsburg Road Oct 26.
He said the Dodge pickup truck Phillips drove kept pace with him after he swung out into the left lane to pass.
"I tried to fall back, and he slowed down," Greis said.
Greis took the stand in his own defense Friday, recounting the day of the crash that killed the Pollitt family. He says his memory of events leading up to the accident returned gradually. He said he still has no recollection of the actual crash.
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Police say Daniel Greis, 58, was under the influence of marijuana and was legally drunk Oct. 26, when the Honda Pilot he was driving hit the family's Honda Accord on Staffordsburg Road in Independence as they drove to the home of the children's grandfather.
Samantha Malohn, 27, Rodney Pollitt Jr., 26, and their three children, Hailieann, 9, Brenden, 8, and 6-year-old Cailie were each declared dead at the scene.
Greis described his morning. He got home from his job around 6:30 a.m. He said he took four hits from a marijuana pipe to deal with back pain. He took his wife's Honda Pilot to Tire Discounters to have its brakes checked. He tried to sleep, couldn't and called his friend Bruce Grainger to see if he wanted to go fishing or play golf. They opted for golf at Hickory Sticks Golf Course in Campbell County.
He says he drank from a half-filled leftover bourbon and Coke in a 17-ounce plastic soda bottle and took it with him as he left to pick up his friend. He drank it.
Grainger drove the Pilot to the course and the friends played nine holes. Greis got a mett and a double Maker's Mark over ice at the clubhouse, he said. They headed for the back nine.
After the back nine, Greis drove back to Grainger's home. Grainger said he asked his lifelong friend if he was too tired to drive home, and Greis assured him he was fine. He left.
Greis said trouble began when he came upon the Dodge truck. He said he thought to pass it, he said, but there was an oncoming vehicle so he hung back. He said the truck was driving slowly in front of him, and he pulled out to pass. That's when he says the truck, which has been identified as being driven by Jesse Phillips, began keeping pace, not allowing him to pass or pull back in.
He said he was at first alarmed, then terrified as he could not get back behind the truck. He saw a blind rise about two football fields ahead.
"I was terrified," he said. "I was panicked."
He said he floored it, and tried to get ahead.
"There was never a point where I could get over behind him. So I tried to get ahead of him. I thought speeding up was my only hope of getting over."
He doesn't remember the impact. He remembers hearing as he lay on the side of the road that he had hit another car.
He told his attorney he feels responsible.
"I feel responsibility, yes. Those people died horribly. It was my car that hit them. I did that. I didn't see it but I hit that car. They didn't have a chance. I was praying please God, don't let there be anyone over the hill."
Answering whether he thought Phillips had any responsibility, he was emphatic. "Oh yes, most definitely," he said.
Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders challenged his decisions. He wondered why Greis did not just stop.
"Five seconds before the crash, you were flying down the road at 82 mph," Sanders said.
He pointed out the risks: the speed, the blind rise, the possibility of an oncoming car he can't see.
"If you had time to pray, isn't it true that you had time to stop?" Sanders asked.
"So the time it took to perceive the possible deadly consequences, think of God's name, to pray to God that there be nobody coming in the other direction, that's less time than it took to put your foot on the brake."