December 5, 2013

Teen got ticket for being drunk months before fatal crash

A school administrator testifies that a Keller teen’s father let his son drive to school when he was 13.

Four months before the June night when he drove a pickup while drunk and killed four people, a Keller teenager got a ticket for being drunk in a parked truck with a scantily clad 14-year-old girl, according to evidence presented at his trial on Thursday.

On Feb. 19, a Fort Worth police officer investigating burglaries spotted a black Ford F-150 pickup parked near the Jacksboro Highway at the Lakeside/Fort Worth border. The truck matched the description of one investigators believed was being used by burglars, according to a police report read into the record by a Tarrant County prosecutor.

Inside the pickup, the officer saw the defendant and a 14-year-old girl, the report said. Both were drunk.

“The girl had her shorts pulled down and was in her bra and panties and was so drunk it was difficult to get any information from her,” the report said.

The officer called Lakeside police for assistance. The pickup driver was issued a citation, and then he and the girl were released to their parents, according to a videotape and report.

“As he was released, he said ‘Thanks for ruining my life’ as if it what had happened was the fault of the police,” the officer wrote in his report.

On Wednesday, the now 16-year-old pickup driver pleaded guilty in Tarrant County juvenile court to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. Five civil suits have been filed against the teen and his family.

In his guilty plea, the teen admitted to being drunk on June 15 when he lost control of his pickup, starting a deadly chain of collisions on Burleson-Retta Road in southern Tarrant County. The teen elected to have state District Judge Jean Boyd sentence him after she hears testimony.

The Star-Telegram usually does not identify juvenile defendants.

The teen had seven passengers in his Ford F-350 pickup, had been drinking, was speeding, had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit, plus traces of Valium in his system, according to testimony on Wednesday.

Killed were Breanna Mitchell of Lillian, whose car had broken down; Hollie and Shelby Boyles, who lived nearby and had come outside to help Mitchell; and Burleson youth minister Brian Jennings, a passer-by who had also stopped to help.

Driving at 13

On Thursday, LeVonna Anderson, an administrator at the Anderson Private School, testified that she was taken aback when she saw the teen, then 13, driving himself to school in a large pickup. Anderson said she confronted the teen’s father, who replied that his son was one of the best drivers he knew.

“We had harsh words about it because I knew a teen’s mind is not fully developed, and they cannot make good decisions,” Anderson testified.

That was the teen’s last year at the school, Anderson said. His parents divorced later that year, she said.

“My first concern was that he was 13 years old and he was driving a pickup,” Anderson said. “I thought about calling a law enforcement friend of mine and giving him the tag number so he could be on the lookout for him.”

Friends say teen knew he was drunk

On the night of June 15, before the collisions, the teen knew he was drunk before he climbed into his truck, according to witness statements read into the record by prosecutor Riley Shaw.

The teen was with at least seven friends at a house on Burleson-Retta Road where he had at least two shots of Everclear, two shots of liquor and some beer before a girl asked him to drive her home, witnesses reported. He refused, saying he could not drive because he was drunk.

After speaking to her mother, the girl said she could stay at his house if she could get some feminine hygiene products, her statement said. Several teens at the house cautioned the defendant against driving, but he insisted that he be the one to take the girl to a store, the statements said.

One teen said he told the defendant “not to drive but he did it anyway,” according to his statement to police. “Concerned for my friends, I got into the truck and strapped myself in. The next thing I knew I’m holding my friend’s body in my arms.”

Testimony was scheduled to continue Friday, but Boyd postponed the trial until Tuesday because of the icy weather.

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