Man’s probation revoked in DWI manslaughter case

Posted Tuesday, Mar. 04, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Renée Horton was working her way through college when she was killed by a drunken driver on Aug. 9, 2009.

She was studying to be a teacher — a dream she had pursued since high school. She was six months from graduating and 11 days from her 25th birthday.

Nearly three years ago, Christopher Elton Campbell was sentenced to 10 years’ probation for causing the wreck that killed Horton.

Prosecutors worked out some terms of Campbell’s probation in consultation with Horton’s mother, Debbie Horton. They included that he would wear a bracelet with Renée Horton’s name on it; reimburse her mother more than $22,000 for funeral expenses; spend Christmas, Thanksgiving, July Fourth, and the dates of Renée Horton’s birth and death in the Tarrant County Jail; and neither possess nor consume alcohol.

After state District Judge Ruben Gonzalez handed down the sentence, Campbell promised never to return to his courtroom.

But on Friday, there he was, in front of Gonzalez again.

This time the judge sent Campbell, 24, to prison for 10 years for repeatedly violating the conditions of his probation.

Debbie Horton said the prison sentence is just. It keeps Campbell from hurting another family, she said.

“The very first impact statement that I read to you four years ago, I feel that it obviously did not make an impact at all on you or we wouldn’t be here,” Horton said Friday as she read her second victim impact statement to Campbell.

“I feel that you have a huge lack of remorse. I feel that you don’t think that rules apply to you. You have been given every chance possible, and you continue to break the law. It’s unfair and I’m just tired of it.”

Campbell, then 20, was driving a Honda Civic at 3:15 a.m. on a Sunday when an officer clocked him going 53 mph in a 40-mph zone in the 1600 block of South University Drive.

The officer was trying to catch the car, which radar showed had accelerated to 93 mph, when he came upon the wreck.

Campbell had rear-ended a vehicle stopped at a red light at West Seventh Street. Renée Horton was pronounced dead at the scene, and the driver of the car was injured.

Campbell and his 16-year-old brother, a passenger in his car, were also injured.

Campbell had a blood-alcohol content of 0.12, 1 1/2 times the legal limit of 0.08, police reported.

He pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter.

Last week, Tarrant County prosecutors Lloyd Whelchel and Anndi Risinger presented evidence that Campbell held jobs at bars, continued to drink and took an unauthorized trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras after telling his probation officer that he was going to Slidell, La., to visit his sick grandmother.

In addition, Campbell neglected to blow into an alcohol detection device 17 times.

At Birdville High School, Renée Horton was a charter member of the drill team, a cheerleader, a member of the Student Council and vice president of the Ready Set Teach program, her mother said. Renée Horton interned at an elementary and middle school before going to college on a teaching scholarship.

“She was a natural with children,” Debbie Horton said. “The kids loved her.”

Renée Horton worked at an Ulta salon in Southlake for three years while she was in college, her mother said. Her goal was to finish college at Tarleton State University so she could have a career, get married and have children.

Her daughter’s death was so preventable, Debbie Horton said. It’s just up to people to make a sober decision not to drink and drive.

“Every day something comes up about Renée — sometimes happy memories, sometimes just her laughter or her smile, how she laughed so fully,” her mother said in the impact statement. “All the little sayings she would come up with, how she would say ‘yesterday night’ instead of last night.

“Every memory ends in tears.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752 Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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