Pickett's friend: “He had a handful of pills in his hand and chucked them in his mouth"

Pamela Barletta, a former friend of Charles Pickett Jr., testified in his trial about his activities prior to the Kalamazoo bike tragedy. (WWMT)

Just hours before the accident that left five dead and four others injured, Charles Pickett Jr. had engaged in a heated argument with his former friend Pamela Barletta before taking "a handful of pills" and getting behind the wheel of his pickup truck, according to testimony Thursday in court.

Barletta said Pickett arrived at the Red Roof Inn on South 11th Street in the late afternoon of June 6, 2016, after coming from a cousin's funeral in Battle Creek. Barletta testified that she wanted to return home to Battle Creek that evening to sort out a domestic issue with her husband, much to the displeasure of an already stressed Pickett.

She then testified that Pickett took "a palm-full" of pills.

“He just had a handful of pills in his hand and chucked them in his mouth," Barletta said. "I said that’s real smart Charlie, now you have to drive. And, before I could say anything else, he drove away.”

The truck peeled out of the hotel parking lot before Pickett made his way to the Speedway gas station on Stadium Drive, where surveillance footage was able to corroborate his location at 5:15 p.m. He grabbed a drink to wash down his pills.

Detective Richard Mattison testified that Pickett had been taking methamphetamine for two years as a daily user, up until two weeks prior to the crash. It was then, Pickett told the investigators, that he had cut his usage to three days a week. On the day of the crash, he had taken methamphetamine. Mattison also testified that Pickett admitted to being on Flexerol, a muscle relaxer, and Tramadol, a pain reliever, prior to the crash.

When investigators interviewed Pickett at the hospital, he expressed his need for an attorney. After he was made aware of the death of five people at the scene, Mattison said Pickett's eyes went wide and his mouth fell open. After several seconds of silence, Pickett told investigators that he had been on pain killers and muscle relaxers prior to getting behind the wheel.

Also during morning testimony, forensic pathologist Elizabeth Douglas delivered autopsy details in the deaths of Fred Anton Nelson, Melissa Ann Fevig Hughes and Debra Ann Bradley, three of the five who died that day.

Nelson, 73, of Kalamazoo, suffered multiple blunt force trauma injuries to his head and neck. He was killed quickly, but not instantly, Douglas said.

Hughes, 42, of Kalamazoo, suffered blunt force trauma to the head, neck and trunk along with numerous laceration to internal organs. She too, died quickly, Douglas said.

Bradley, 53, of Augusta, suffered blunt impact to the head and neck. Douglas said she did not die as quickly as the others.

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