Jury fails to come up with verdict in gas station explosion trial

Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 4:45 PM EDT
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ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Jury deliberations have ended without a verdict in the trial of the man accused of involuntary manslaughter in a 2019 explosion at a gas station.

The jury began deliberating around 9 a.m. Thursday and around noon asked to hear Phillip Westmoreland’s police interview for a second time. Members of the jury came back into the courtroom and said they were unable to reach a verdict.

The judge read them an instruction that told them to re-examine their opinions and try to reach a decision. After re-examining, the jury was unable to reach a verdict. They were dismissed Thursday afternoon after announcing.

Defense Attorney Rob Dean said he has filed for all charges to be dropped against Westmoreland.

“We hope that today sends a message to the commonwealth that Mr. Westmoreland is innocent and that he could move on with his life and so can the victims of the families themselves,” said Dean.

If the court does not decide to drop the charges then a hearing will be set to determine whether this will be considered a mistrial. After that, the commonwealth could ask for another jury to consider the case.

Westmoreland was the fuel driver who delivered gasoline to the South River Market in May 2019. He was charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The owner, Roger Lee Roberts, two employees, Kevin Tate Roberts and Samantha Gail Lewis, and a patron, Paul Dewayne Ruley, died as a result of that explosion.

During closing arguments, the Commonwealth and defense agreed the explosion was an accident.

The Commonwealth said Westmoreland overfilled the tanks in the back of the store by 800 gallons during the delivery, which caused the explosion. The defense argued it was faulty equipment that led to the explosion.