Fruitts takes the stand in manslaughter trial

By Kelly Ducote December 11, 2013 05:53 pm

The defendant accused of hitting and killing a Union County worker with his vehicle last year took the stand Wednesday afternoon, telling jurors he was distracted by the stereo system and did not see the county work crew until it was too late.

Harold "J.R." Fruitts, 53, faces charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and three counts of reckless endangerment of another. The charges stem from a Feb. 28, 2012, vehicle versus pedestrian crash that killed John E. Rysdam III. Fruitts was driving the vehicle, a 1996 Ford Bronco, that killed Rysdam, who was a longtime Union County public works employee.

"Every button you push does something different," Fruitts said, describing the stereo system.

The defendant described leaving his Palmer Junction Road home, messing with his radio and then looking up to see a county work truck and four men who started running to the right. He swerved left thinking he would miss the workers, he said.

Fruitts told the prosecution that he had not disagreed with them "from day one" that he was not attentive to his driving just prior to the crash.

Voleny Rysdam, the widow of John E. Rysdam III, also took the stand Wednesday before the state finished its case. She said the couple had been married 42 years.