July 2012 Archives

Man charged with homicide by drunk driving after causing fatal seven car pileup

669002_red_traffic_light.jpgThirty seconds after police received a report of a possible drunk driver, that very driver caused a seven car pileup that left one woman dead. It happened last Friday in Wisconsin: according to the Eau Claire County Sheriff's department, 35 year-old Travis Hazelton slammed into a line of six stopped vehicles that were waiting at a stop light. One man - 26 year-old Jesse Schreiner, Hazelton's passenger - was pronounced dead at the scene. In addition, five people - including Hazelton - were hospitalized after suffering injuries in the crash.

Authorities say that alcohol was a large contributor to the accident, and Hazelton has since been charged with homicide by drunk driving. He was not immediately arrested because he remains in the hospital; however, he is expected to be taken into custody promptly after he is released. There are no recent reports on his current medical status.

WEAU 13 reports that Hazelton has had a fair amount of legal trouble within the past few years. Three years ago, he served time for making counterfeit money, and in April 2011, he was convicted of his 3rd-drunk driving offense. Now, Hazelton is facing serious legal consequences, as the accident constitutes a 4th offense, and also resulted in a fatality.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driving under the influence is a leading cause of crash fatalities in the United States: an average of one person is killed every half-hour in an auto accident involving alcohol. What's more, NHTSA also predicts that three in every ten Americans will be involved in an accident caused by alcohol within some point of their lives. Despite raised awareness about the dangers of drunk driving, far too many innocent people still die in these totally preventable crashes.

Penalties associated with drunk driving offenses
vary from state to state. Here in Missouri, law enforcement officials take accidents involving alcohol very seriously, and courts are often strict about sentencing. A drunk driving accident causing death to any involved party is considered a Class C felony, punishable by up to 7 years in prison and up to $5000 in fines. If a fatal alcohol-related crash results in the death of two or more people (or any person who is not the driver's passenger), or if the driver has a blood alcohol content of 0.18 or above, the driver can be charged with a Class B felony. If convicted, offenders can be sentenced to five to 15 years in prison.

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Police charge driver with first-degree assault following hit and run incident in Springfield

523929_night_drive.jpgA man wanted by authorities in connection with a hit and run incident is now in custody, according to the Springfield News-Leader. 22 year-old William Lee Smith reportedly turned himself in to the Greene County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday and was subsequently charged with first degree assault.

The charge stems from an incident last weekend that began with a domestic dispute in Ash Grove and ended with a critically injured man in Springfield. Investigators allege that William Smith and his wife Cheyenne were involved in a verbal altercation on Saturday evening. During the argument, Cheyenne called her mother, Vicki Stevens, and asked Stevens to come to the Smith residence and pick up Cheyenne and her son. Cheyenne then notified the authorities of the altercation. By the time Stevens arrived, police were on the scene. They detained William while Cheyenne left with her mother and son, but ultimately, he was released.

The women headed towards Springfield. As they traveled south on West Bypass, they saw William Smith following them near the Kearney intersection. William allegedly swerved at Stevens' vehicle and stopped in front of it several times in an attempt to get the vehicle to pull over. At that point, Stevens called 911 and reported that Williams was chasing her vehicle. She then contacted her husband, Randy Stevens, and his co-worker, Jeremy Strahle. The two men met the women near Kansas and Atlantic Street.

According to the statement against William Smith, Randy Stevens and Strahle were standing outside their vehicle when Smith sped past them. He turned around and came back, authorities say. Then, "[as Smith] was rapidly accelerating the vehicle, he struck [Strahle] with the front bumper of the vehicle, throwing him into the air and landing partially on the roadway and partially in the grass area on the west side of Kansas Avenue." After hitting Strahle, Smith reportedly continued traveling south on Kansas, leaving the scene.

Smith turned himself in on Tuesday and posted a $200,000 bond. His next court date is August 16. While free on bond, Smith is neither allowed to drive nor contact his wife, child or in-laws. In addition, must wear an electronic monitoring device.

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Driver faces manslaughter charges for December crash that killed 2 Parkview grads

952313_gavel.jpgThis week, Jasper County Prosecutors brought manslaughter charges against a driver involved in a fatal crash last winter, according to KY3. Jeremy Johnson was driving when his SUV crashed on I-44 in December, killing two former Parkview High School football players, Diondre Johnson and Michael McCrimmons. A third passenger, Patrick Holt, was also critically injured in the wreck.

On the night of the crash, the four young men - all students at Missouri Southern in Joplin - were heading home after a late evening at a Springfield nightclub. According to witnesses, the SUV was speeding excessively before it struck a median cable and overturned into westbound traffic. Diondre Johnson was ejected from the vehicle and killed instantly.

Immediately after the wreck, Jeremy Johnson exited the SUV and was hit by a passing car. Seconds later, a tractor trailer struck the overturned vehicle, killing McCrimmons and seriously injuring Holt. Jeremy Johnson was also seriously injured: he is currently in a wheelchair and undergoes daily physical therapy sessions.

According to prosecutors, the Missouri Highway Patrol found that Jeremy Johnson was under the influence of alcohol when the crash occurred, and he has been charged with two counts of manslaughter. Manslaughter charges are common when someone is killed unintentionally or without malice. There are two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter charges tend to be brought against defendants who commit crimes due to being provoked.

In contrast, involuntary manslaughter charges are most often brought when someone's death is caused by negligence. For example, reckless driving is the most common basis for involuntary manslaughter charges. However, the charge can be amended to murder if there is proof the negligence was intentional. In some states, driving under the influence and causing a death can be considered murder rather than manslaughter.

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Are you covered in the event of a Missouri car accident caused by an uninsured driver?

Vs-Camborne_2011_09_25_0004.JPGIt is estimated that approximately 10-15% of drivers throughout Missouri don't carry auto insurance, even though state law requires drivers to have insurance. If you're injured in an auto accident, there's the unfortunate risk that the driver who caused the auto accident is will be uninsured. Under those circumstances, do you know who would be responsible for your medical bills and other expenses?

Being involved in an auto accident can be difficult enough, even when both parties are insured and liability is clear. And if you've suffered whiplash or sustained soft tissue injuries, the physical pain you're feeling can distract you from other important issues. Further, insurance companies can be reluctant to offer even token settlements to cover the cost of personal and bodily injury, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other damages resulting from car accidents. In some cases, claims can drag on for years and years.

Now imagine jumping through these hoops because of an auto accident cause by an uninsured driver. In this situation, you may still be able to recover compensation for your property damage and even your injuries. Insurers offer uninsured motorist coverage, and in fact, this coverage is required for all Missouri drivers. This portion of the policy allows you the ability to collect damages from your own insurance carrier if you are involved in a car accident caused by an uninsured driver.

Uninsured motorist insurance coverage also applies in the event of a hit-and-run accident, where the at-fault driver eaves the scene and can't be located. In this example, uninsured motorist coverage is available to take the place of coverage that should exist, so you're not left on the hook for thousands of dollars in medical expenses and property repairs that were incurred due to the negligence of another party. Further, it applies in similar situations where pedestrians are injured by drivers who flee the scene of the accident, or where the driver who caused the crash can't be found.

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