Monday brought a sense of closure to State Police Sgt. Aaron Nichols, as the woman accused of severely injuring him while fleeing a mall with stolen clothes entered a guilty plea in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Nichols attended the plea hearing. It was his first time seeing Jennifer Elaine Garretson, 36, since the New Years Eve incident that left him with lasting injuries.
He can no longer smell what his wife, Kyla, is making for dinner when he comes home. He can't taste it either. He believes the trauma to his brain severed the nerves that are responsive to taste and smell.
"I lost my sense of taste and smell for good and I lost about 60-percent of my hearing so I've had to make some adjustments for that," Nichols said. "I still eat what I like but still it's an adjustment.
"I've eaten stuff I never would have eaten when I could taste, just to try to get something," he said.
Nichols remembers the events leading up to the incident but the last thing he recalls is being on the trunk of Garretson's car.
He was off duty that evening and went to the St. Albans Mall to exchange a camouflage belt his daughter gave him for Christmas for a different size. He heard the front alarms at Goody's going off as Garretson fled the store and he called out for her to stop, identifying himself as a trooper. When she didn't stop, he chased after her.
He was still in pursuit as Garretson got into a 1993 Honda Accord. Witnesses told investigators in January that Garretson nearly struck the trooper and that he jumped onto the trunk to minimize impact.
Garretson accelerated, trying to throw Nichols off of her car and then, according to another witness, drove around in a circle until he was thrown off.
"I remember everything up until I was on the car," Nichols said. "I couldn't tell you how long I was on the back of that car."
He also can't remember much about the next few weeks. He was rushed to Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital and remained there for a little more than three weeks.