A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Jury recommends 5-year sentence for woman who caused serious accident while high on Oxy, Xanax

NKyTribune staff report

A jury found Michelle Hirnikel guilty of Second Degree Assault and other offenses, for causing an accident in November 2015 that left another driver seriously injured.


The jury took just less than an hour to convict Hirnikel, who investigators say was under the influence of Oxycodone and Alprazolam (Xanax) when her vehicle went left of center on Decoursey Pike in Ryland Heights and struck a vehicle driven by Tammy Beyer.

Police administered two doses of Narcan to Hirnikel at the scene to revive her.

Beyer had to be cut from her vehicle and was flown to UC Medical Center in Cincinnati with serious injuries.

At trial, Hirnikel claimed she was not under the influence and had not broken any laws because the drugs were prescribed for her.

A doctor called to testify, however, said the level of Oxycodone and Alprazolam were consistent with her taking more than the prescribed dose of the drugs.

The jury also found Hirnikel guilty of Criminal Mischief First Degree, and Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence, Aggravating Circumstances, and recommended a sentence of five years in prison.

Hinikel will be sentenced by Kenton Circuit Judge Kathleen Lape next month.

The Kenton Commonwealth Attorney issued the following statement regarding the case:

On November 17, 2015, around 5:00 p.m., Kenton County Police responded to a head-on motor vehicle collision on Decoursey Pike in Ryland Heights. Responding officers discovered Michelle A. Hirnikel’s Saturn SUV was still across the double yellow line, with heavy front-end damage.

Hirnikel had been traveling northbound on Decoursey Pike when she crossed left of center and struck another vehicle driven by Tammy Beyer. The collision left Beyer’s Toyota Camry so heavily damaged it was almost unrecognizable and trapped Beyer in the vehicle. Fire and EMS from Ryland Heights, Taylor Mill, and Alexandria responded to the scene, where it took approximately 30 minutes for firefighter to cut Beyer from her vehicle with the jaws of life. Beyer was then flown to University of Cincinnati Medical Center by helicopter with serious injuries.

Hirnikel was lethargic, going in and out of consciousness at the scene until EMTs administered two doses of Narcan, a drug commonly used to reverse the effects of opiate intoxication. Hirnikel was transported to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Edgewood where investigators obtained a blood sample from her. Toxicology testing by the KY State Police Central Lab in Frankfort revealed levels of Oxycodone and Alprazolam (Xanax) in Hirnikel’s system.

Kenton County Police Detective Stephen Benner, who led the investigation, testified at trial, along with Kenton County Police Sgt. Chris Haddle and Sgt. Jason Fields, as well as Jim Shoemaker, the Assistant Chief of the Ryland Heights Fire Department. At trial, Hirnikel claimed that she was not under the influence and had not broken any laws because both drugs were prescribed to her.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Emily Arnzen called Dr. Gregory J. Davis, from the University of Kentucky Medical Center, to testify about effects of mixing Oxycodone and Alprazolam. Dr. Davis further testified regarding the quantity of Oxycodone and Alprazolam found in Hirnikel’s blood. Davis explained that Hirnikel’s levels were consistent with the Defendant having taken more Alprazolam and more Oxycodone then that which was prescribed.

After less than an hour of deliberation, the jury returned verdicts finding Michelle Hirnikel guilty of Assault Second Degree, Criminal Mischief First Degree, and Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence, Aggravating Circumstances. The jury recommended a sentence of five years in prison. 

Hirnikel will appear again before Kenton Circuit Judge Kathleen Lape for formal, final sentencing in October, 2017. 

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