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July 29, 2008

Toxicologist: Driver's blood alcohol level 3 times the limit

Samuel Lee Hilburn is accused in the fiery death of Fort Worth police officer Dwayne Freeto.

FORT WORTH -- Samuel Lee Hilburn's blood alcohol level was about three times the legal driving limit when he rear-ended a Fort Worth patrol car with his Lexus, killing Officer Dwayne Freeto in fiery collision, a county toxicologist testified today.

In the hour after the fatal Dec. 17, 2006, crash, Hilburn’s blood was taken twice at John Peter Smith Hospital and later analyzed by three separate laboratories.

Based on those lab results, Tarrant County forensic toxicologist Angela Springfield concluded that Hilburn’s blood-alcohol level was 0.20, nearly three times the legal limit. Hilburn is on trial in state District Judge Elizabeth Berry’s court this week, accused of intoxication manslaughter in Freeto’s death. If convicted, he faces from probation to 20 years in prison.

During testimony this morning, Hilburn's attorney, Okey Akpom, challenged Springfield's estimate of Hilburn's intoxication.

Springfield initially testified that a 130-pound man would have to drink at least eight or nine drinks to reach the 0.20 blood alcohol limit recorded the day of the accident.

If he was drinking alcohol over several hours, such a man could have drank 15 to 16 drinks before reaching that level, he said.

Akpom asked if a person would reach the 0.20 level if witnesses said he had only three drinks.

Either the testing would have been inaccurate or the witnesses mistaken for that to occur, Springfield said.

"I'm testifying based on the result of my lab and two other accredited labs," Springfield said. "If those results are in question, my testimony would have to change."

Officer Freeto was working an overnight patrol shift in south Fort Worth when he received a call sometime after 3 a.m. that Adriana Delgadillo was stranded near the Morningside Drive exit of I-35W.

When he got there, Freeto and the woman’s friend, Rogelio Delgado, were unable to change the woman’s tire on her BMW because of an anti-theft locking device.

While Freeto waited in his patrol car for additional help, his car was struck from behind by the Lexus driven by Hilburn. Both vehicles burst into flames and Freeto died at the scene.

The trial continued at 1:45 p.m. today.

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