WSOC (Channel 9) meteorologist John Ahrens was found innocent Thursday on a charge of assaulting his estranged wife by throwing rocks at her.
Ahrens was summarily jailed two days in October after Sobrina Driver told police he threw rocks at her while they were exchanging their daughter during a custody handoff.
Ahrens, who joined WSOC nine years ago, has been off the air since the charge was lodged but has been working in the Channel 9 newsroom. He is expected to return to his forecasting duties this weekend.
Ahrens, 38, and Driver, 35, were married in September 2013 and separated in June 2015. They have been in a contentious divorce and custody dispute over their daughter, now 19 months old.
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Driver testified Thursday that she went to Ahrens’ Ballantyne apartment on Oct. 24 to pick up their daughter per their custody agreement. She said she gave Ahrens some legal papers and went to put the toddler in the car.
She said he was about 5 feet away when he threw a handful of rocks that clattered onto her Toyota 4Runner. One rock, she said, opened a wound over her eye that took two stitches to close.
Aherns said he threw no rocks. He said when he came out to hand off their daughter, Driver handed him copies of the annulment of his previous marriage in Charleston County, S.C.
Then she drove off abruptly, he said. Later police came to the apartment to arrest him and told him about the rocks, he said.
“I said, ‘Officer. Look around. Where did I get the rocks? There’s no rocks around here,’” Ahrens said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Joseph Crumpler testified that he later inspected the parking lot and found some pebbles but no loose rocks of the kind clustered in the front seat of Driver’s car. “I didn’t find anything matching those rocks out there,” he said.
Tape of encounter
In her first interview with police, Driver said that their daughter was crying when she put her in the car because Ahrens would not let go of her arm. She told police he then said, “I’m sick of both of you,” before launching the stones.
Driver said she had her telephone on in the passenger seat during the encounter with a friend named Missy at the end of the line, recording the confrontation.
Ahrens’ attorney, Lance Williams, played the tape.
Driver can be heard calling out, “What are you doing?” followed by sobbing and calling out to her friend.
Missy: “Did he hurt you?”
Driver: “No, he threw something at my head. … Missy, call 911, there’s blood coming from my head. … Whatever he hit me with is a huge-ass rock and blood is pouring from my head. Call the cops … Do you have it recorded?”
But Williams pointed out to District Judge Matt Osman that the tape did not contain Ahrens’ voice saying he was “sick of them” or the sound of the toddler crying.
Pictures introduced by Assistant District Attorney Robert Cuffney showed Driver’s injury and her blood that had dripped on the child’s clothes.
Report of attack
Michael Melendez, a 12-year veteran of the sexual assault unit of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, testified that he investigated a report made by Driver months before the incident with Ahrens.
Driver told him that she was holding the baby outside when a man walked up and ordered her to give him money, then stabbed her in the palm of her hand with sufficient force for the knife blade to go clear through.
That case has never been solved, Melendez said.
He said that Driver later called to tell about previous abusive behavior by her husband and to ask whether he could be charged for it. Melendez suggested she take her concerns to a magistrate.
“She asked me if I thought her husband set up the assault where she was stabbed with the knife,” Melendez said.
John Driver, Sobrina Driver’s younger brother, testified that he visited his sister last year at Anmed Health Medical Center Behavioral Health in Anderson, S.C., in August where she had been admitted because of trouble with prescribed medications she takes for depression and anxiety.
He said Driver told him and other family members that she had taken pain killers and alcohol, stabbed herself in the hand and made up the story about the attacker.
He also said that Driver admitted making an incision in one of her breasts to convince her father that she had gotten a biopsy. Driver had started GoFundMe accounts saying she needed a double mastectomy and testified in court that she is scheduled for the surgery in March, though she hasn’t gotten an MRI to confirm the cancer diagnosis.
But her brother said that she doesn’t have breast cancer.
Driver testified that she didn’t remember much of what she told her brother while at the hospital because of problems with her medication.
Aherns was arrested a second time on Oct. 31 after Driver reported to police that he sent her a threatening email.
After a hearing Nov. 3, District Court Judge Paige McThenia dismissed the protective order against Ahrens, ruling that there were no proven grounds for it and ordered that Ahrens’ shared custody of the couple’s daughter be reinstated.
In testimony during that hearing, Ahrens’ relatives said he was with them at an Atlantic Beach rental without Internet access when the message was sent.
Ahrens, who said Thursday on the stand that the accusations had destroyed his reputation, filed a civil suit against Driver in July alleging defamation and slander.
In the suit, Ahrens said Driver hacked into his personal email, and on June 26 and 27 “sent emails to his family confessing illegal, immoral acts.” It also alleged that Driver contacted Ahrens’ colleagues and supervisor with accusations.
Ahrens’ suit said that Driver arranged for his supervisor at WSOC to be contacted by someone claiming to be from CMPD accusing him of criminal and immoral actions. “When his supervisor called back, she discovered an imposter had called her,” the suit said.