The Georgia driver accused of fatally running over an avid cyclist from Minneapolis on a group bike ride near her university was under the influence of many prescription drugs and reaching for her cellphone at the time of impact, according to details in a newly filed indictment.
Whitney B. Howard, 31, of Hull, was charged by a grand jury last week with first-degree homicide by vehicle and numerous other counts in connection with the Sept. 12 death of University of Georgia graduate student Ashley Block, 25, and the injuring of two fellow Athens cyclists. Howard remains held in the Athens-Clarke County jail ahead of a Tuesday court hearing.
One of the 13 counts addresses Howard having a 2-year-old daughter in the SUV with her at the time of allegedly being under the influence of methadone and five other drugs. Some of them are taken to treat anxiety and depression.
Howard’s SUV struck Block head-on during an early-evening ride with two others. Rider Michael Enfinger suffered brain and spinal injuries, while the third cyclist was less seriously hurt.
Block was a Ph.D. student in anthropology, with interests in environmental communication, forest regeneration and ecological anthropology, according to her academic profile. Along with being an avid cyclist, she participated in various long-distances races.
She attended high school in her hometown of Minneapolis at Minnehaha Academy and then college at Sewanee in Tennessee, where she ran cross-country.
Police say Howard reached to answer her cellphone and crossed the centerline, striking all three bicyclists heading in the other direction on their side of the road. Block was thrown from her bike into a ditch and pronounced dead at the scene.
Howard’s criminal history includes arrests in June and August on suspicion of driving under the influence, both being drug-related.