Key witness testimony change delays court hearing

Monday, January 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A court hearing for the Bixby teenager charged with manslaughter in the girl's death, came to an abrupt halt last week when a key witness didn't testify the way prosecutors expected. Because of that, the hearing was postponed until February 6th.

The victim's family hopes at that time, the truth will come out. 16-year-old Alana Merchant was riding in a friend's car on Highway 75 when witnesses say a black Mustang swerved in front of the girls and slammed on the brakes causing Alana's friend to swerve into the path of a semi-truck, the friend who was driving, survived, but, Alana did not. Prosecutors charged 19-year-old Nicholas Horath with first-degree manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident.

A witness, who had told police he saw Horath pull in front of the girl's car, took the witness stand last Thursday and said he didn't know anything about it. Rex Merchant, Victim's Father; "If he didn't see anything, that's one thing, but, to say he did and then not testify, that's wrong." Alana's family was shocked by the sudden change of events and feels the case will be lost without the eyewitness testimony. They say losing her has already been devastating. Cassy Hayden, Victim's Sister: "She was my buddy, my best friend and she can't be replaced. And, no one understands how horrible it is until it's actually happened." Alana's family believes the eyewitness is scared for one reason or another. They believe if he tells the truth, his own conscience will be eased. Cliffonia Merchant, Victim's Mother: "We have lost everything, he has lost nothing. All he has to do is be honest and just come forward, that's all we want him to do, is be honest."

Prosecutors say that's all they want of any witness, is for the truth to be told, so justice can be done, in all cases. Nicholas Horath has pleaded not guilty and is free on $20,000 bond. Assistant DA Caleb Raynolds, who is prosecuting the case, says he's not sure what will happen when the hearing resumes on February 6th.