• Severely injured student faces alleged hit-and-run driver

    By: Steve Gehlbach


    ATHENS, Ga. -  A 20-year-old former college student nearly killed in a hit-and-run crash faced the man accused of hitting her for the first time Monday.

    Emily Bowman made her first trip back to Athens since the night she was hit in February 2013 while walking on the side of a road.

    In her wheelchair and wearing a dress and makeup, Bowman sat in the courtroom for a motions hearing in the case against William “Wilson” Heaton. The 23-year-old is charged with DUI and hit-and-run.

    “I just felt like she needed to hear what was going on because she does understand,” said Debbie Bowman, Emily’s mother, after the hearing. Although Debbie Bowman says they tell Emily what happened, she’s not sure how much her brain will let her comprehend.

    Bowman, who suffered irreparable brain damage from the crash, has only limited movements and just started speaking again. At the hearing, her father, Dale, leaned over and whispered in her ear.

    “I told Emily that’s the guy that hit you,” Dale Bowman said.  “(I) wanted her to know, to see him.”

    Emily’s parents don’t think Heaton ever looked at Emily. His defense argued against allowing certain evidence to be allowed at trial. They say material collected from the outside of Heaton’s pickup truck after he abandoned it that night was obtained illegally, before a search warrant.

    The judge has yet to make a ruling on the motions heard Monday, but he did tentatively set Heaton’s trial to begin the week of Oct. 20.

    Bowman’s parents say Emily will be back in Athens for the trial.

    “It’s just for her and the court system to see how it’s affected her life and everybody’s life,” said Debbie Bowman.

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