Man gets probation for deadly DWI crash in Fort Worth

Posted Friday, Mar. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH -- A 28-year-old Chico man was sentenced to 10 years probation on Thursday by a jury that had convicted him earlier of intoxication manslaughter for being drunk when he crashed his truck into a downtown Tarrant County courts building last year, fatally injuring the woman he was dating.

Jeremy Lynn Sturch and Michelle Lightfoot, 31, had just left a nightclub about 2 a.m. Feb. 19, 2012, according to witness testimony.

Sturch, who was also assessed a $10,000 fine , was driving his pickup north on Throckmorton Street when he ran the stop light at 300 W. Belknap St. where Throckmorton dead ends.

The pickup jumped the curb and hit the old Criminal Courts Building, which is in a complex that includes Fort Worth police headquarters.

Police Sgt. Amy Rodriguez was in her patrol car westbound on West Belknap approaching Throckmorton on the green light.

It was just after 2 a.m., Rodriguez testified. She heard the loud sound of an accelerating vehicle.

"I was overwhelmed by the 'oh (expletive)' factor," Rodriguez testified. "There were cars behind me and a car to the left of me that was soon going to be passing me. That car just barely made it through.

"It had just rained. The speed. I didn't think my car was going to be able to stop. I determined I was going to take it on my driver's side, and I closed my eyes and clutched the steering wheel.

"My car came to a stop in the middle of the intersection. When I opened my eyes, my car had stopped just inches from his. He passed just in front of the push bar that all police cars have."

As she approached the wreckage, Rodriguez said, she heard Sturch mumble and he smelled of alcohol. Another person who stopped was helping Sturch out of the truck, but Rodriguez testified that she ordered him away. She did not want him contaminating what she now considered a crime scene, Rodriguez said.

She did not want Sturch moving around for his own safety, so she handcuffed him and then radioed for assistance, she said.

D.J. Estes, who prosecuted the case with Anna Hernandez, asked Rodriguez if it was normal for drivers to crash into buildings. Rodriguez replied that it was another clue that Sturch was intoxicated.

The ambulance crew gave Lightfoot a 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale, the last rating before brain death, according to Deputy Medical Examiner Marc Krouse.Lightfoot died less than a week later, Krouse said.

"She suffered a fatal brain injury," Krouse testified. "The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head as a result of a motor vehicle collision. She was rapidly approaching or already brain dead shortly after the accident. I think the right side of her head collided with something on the interior of the vehicle."

During his opening argument, Jim Shaw, Sturch's attorney, said he was not going to challenge testimony relating to his client's intoxication. Shaw said he was hoping the jury would be merciful and grant his client probation.

"We're not going to try and keep any evidence from you," Shaw told the jury. "And we anticipate you will find him guilty at the end of the trial."

Sturch is the second defendant this week to receive probation in an intoxication manslaughter case.

On Friday, Arturo DeLaHoya received two 10-year probationary terms in the deaths of two friends he had known since high school. Angel Zuniga and Juan Rodriguez, both 24, were pronounced dead on Oct. 24, 2010, at the scene of a collision with a tree in the 1000 block of Macon Street in Fort Worth.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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