Three months after 31-year-old Heather Wren was killed in an early morning car crash, the alleged driver of that car will soon know if and when he’ll be put on trial.
Substitute General District Court Judge Charles F. Sievers today found enough evidence to send the case of Brian Foley, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter, to a grand jury for review. If indicted, the case will move to trial in Circuit Court. Foley, 31, faces a prison term of up to a decade if convicted of the class 5 felony. Per the Commonwealth’s request, Sievers agreed to drop Foley’s DUI charge, a class 1 misdemeanor.
The crash that killed Wren happened just before 2 a.m. Nov. 16 on Ashburn Farm Parkway, just east of Starflower Way. Foley was allegedly driving eastbound on the road when his 2007 Toyota Scion careened left over the median, went airborne and landed down an embankment off the side of the westbound lanes.
Foley and Wren, both of whom had been drinking that night, were thrown from the car. Wren was pronounced dead on the scene.
Foley’s attorney, Peter Greenspun, argued in Friday’s preliminary hearing that there was not enough evidence to determine who was driving the car when it crashed. He also argued that Foley’s intoxication level—found to be 0.138-0.15 BAC, according to bloodwork done at the Reston Hospital following the wreck—was not enough to be a proximate cause of the crash.
“There is no evidence here as to what caused the accident,” he said. “There is zero evidence as to who was the driver.”
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ryan Perry argued that Foley’s alleged slowed reaction time was enough evidence for probable cause that Foley was under the influence when the crashed happened—one of the pieces necessary to prove when convicting someone of involuntary manslaughter.
According to Erin Mannion, Wren’s older sister, Wren and Foley had met Mannion and her fiancé, along with some of Foley’s friends, at World of Beer, which is now Jefferson Ale House, in One Loudoun the night of Nov. 15. Mannion testified that she saw Foley drink at least one shot of alcohol and order another beer and that Wren had been “nursing” a beer all night.
Mannion said Wren and Foley snuck away from the group at about midnight without saying goodbye. Mannion said that when she called Wren, she didn’t pick up. When Greenspun asked if Mannion noticed Foley to be “unsteady” or “not in control of his physical movements,” Mannion said she did not notice Foley to be acting in that way.
Security footage from the One Loudoun parking garage showed Wren getting into the passenger seat of Foley’s car at 1:12 a.m. Additional security footage from McDonald’s in Ashburn Farm’s Junction Plaza at 1:30 a.m. showed Foley enter the drive-through with Wren in the passenger seat, order food, pay for it and then drive off without grabbing it. The crash happened less than 20 minutes later about a half mile east of the McDonald’s on Ashburn Farm Parkway.
According to the first Sheriff’s deputy on the scene, the dispatch call concerning the wreck came in at 1:49 a.m.
Sheriff’s Deputy Sean Allen, an accident investigator, said the Toyota clipped a sewer drain on the right-hand side of the eastbound lanes before shooting left, crossing the median, taking down a streetlight pole and coming to rest at the bottom of an embankment after crashing through a residential fence. Allen said there was an 18-by-18-inch chunk of concrete from the sewer drain on the driver seat when he arrived on the scene around 3 a.m.
Alexandra Hollar, a volunteer EMT who was also the attendant-in-charge on the crash scene, said she found Wren in the prone position near the downed light post around 2 a.m. Wren was pronounced dead on arrival.
Hollar said she found Foley at the bottom of the hill, also in the prone position next to the car. She said Foley’s breath smelled of alcohol. “It was noted right away,” she said.
Hollar said that when she started asking Foley questions about his pain, Foley responded multiple times with “f— you.”
Allen said he interviewed Foley about two hours later while in the Intensive Care Unitat Reston Hospital. He said Foley’s eyes were “glassy” and “bloodshot” but that Foley said he didn’t feel drunk. Allen testified that Foley said he was unsure if he was driving the car at the time of the crash and that it felt like a dream, and mentioned something about a deer.
Sievers told Foley on Friday that the grand jury would most likely return an indictment. A grand jury is set to meet next March 9.
“This is a terrible case with tragic consequences,” Sievers said.