PARKERSBURG - The death of 20-year-old Marietta resident Jaleayah Davis has been ruled accidental, officials said Thursday night.
The Wood County Sheriff's Office said it has closed the investigation into the death of the young woman killed on Interstate 77 in November 2011, after meeting with family members and determining a cause of death.
The death was ruled an accident by the state Medical Examiner's Office, with alcohol playing a contributing role, investigators said.
Davis was discovered on Nov. 19, 2011, on I-77 near milepost 181 (Emerson Avenue), deceased after having been ejected from the vehicle she was driving.
Chief Law Enforcement Deputy Shawn Graham said Wood County sheriff's deputies and detectives spent hundreds of hours investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Davis. They followed numerous leads, all of which brought negative results, he said.
Multiple resources were pulled together to develop the conclusion in the woman's death, officials said. Evidence was collected and sent to the West Virginia State Police forensic laboratory, Graham said.
An engineer from Kia Motors traveled to West Virginia to examine the victim's car after the crash. The sheriff's department had an outside expert, who has taught crash reconstruction at the West Virginia State Police Academy, review initial findings of the crash investigators, officials said.
With the advent of social media and controversy surrounding the case from the beginning, it was difficult for officials to convince the community the evidence was clear, officials said.
"Our investigation is complete," Graham said. "We believe it was a tragic single-vehicle accident that claimed (Davis') life."
Graham said the evidence showed Davis was ejected from her vehicle after striking a guardrail on I-77. The impact of her vehicle striking the guardrail caused Davis to be ejected from the passenger side front window, the report said.
She died of "multiple catastrophic injuries sustained as an unrestrained driver of a car that lost control and struck a guardrail on Interstate 77 at approximately the 181.4 milepost," a release from the Wood County Sheriff's Office said Thursday.
As a result of striking the guardrail, and the force of impact, Davis was sent over her vehicle and into the traffic lane of I-77, the sheriff's office release said. Davis' body was struck by a tractor-trailer traveling northbound on I-77, the release said.
The door post on the interior of the vehicle contained samples of DNA that were later determined to belong to Davis, officials said. Upon examination of the vehicle, "it was found that the driver's side air bag of Ms. Davis' vehicle was deployed," the release said.
Because the passenger side air bag did not deploy, investigators were led to believe Davis was alone at the time of the accident, leading them to believe the cause could be attributed to her blood alcohol level and accidental circumstances, officials said.
When deputies arrived on the scene that night, they discovered Davis' car about two-tenths of a mile north of the crash site, officials said.
Alcohol intoxication was a "contributory condition" to her impairment with a BAC of 0.19 and a vitreous alcohol level of 0.24, according to the state's deputy chief medical examiners on the case.
Graham said upon receiving the autopsy reports, which arrived at the sheriff's office last month, detectives and investigators on the case were able to determine there was enough evidence to close it.
Efforts to reach the family members for comment were unsuccessful Thursday night.
Graham said there were some cases he inherited after filling the position as chief deputy, and he discussed them with Sheriff Ken Merritt as soon as they took their positions. He said he and the sheriff determined closing this case was something they wanted to make their top priority.
"The actual accident scene had a lot of unique factors that were suspicious," Graham said. "There were a unique set of circumstances."
However, Graham said the detectives and deputies on the case have determined, without a doubt, the investigation can be closed and ruled an accident.
"My thoughts are absolutely with the family; it's a horrible thing for anyone to lose a child," Graham said Thursday night. "It's a unique set of circumstances with misinformation that caused a lot of speculation."