Attorneys for the prosecution in the trial of a Texas man charged with multiple counts of first-degree manslaughter presented evidence to the court to tie him to the September 2014 deaths of four college softball players.
Prosecutors allege that the defendant, Russell Staley, had been driving under the influence of synthetic marijuana at the time of the fatal crash.
The judge in the case, Murray County Associate Judge, Aaron Duck, said in a statement that he will consider all of the testimony presented on Thursday before he renders any decision in the case against defendant Russell Staley and sending that case to trial. Also to be decided by Judge Duck is what charges Staley will ultimately be facing.
According to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Staley lost control of his semi-tractor trailer on Interstate 35 and broadsided a North Central Texas College softball team’s bus, tearing the vehicle open.
Four women on board the bus were killed in the crash. The victims are listed as Meagan Richardson, 19, of Wylie, Texas; Katelynn Woodlee, 18, of Windom, Texas, Jaiden Pelton, 20, of Telephone, Texas, and Brooke Deckard, 20, of Scurry, Texas. Deckard was air lifted by helicopter to a hospital in Sulphur, Texas, where she later died as the result of injuries she sustained in the crash.
An additional 11 women on the bus were injured in the crash, along with their coach.
Staley was treated at a hospital the night of the crash but was released.
Prosecutors allege that a lack of skid marks at the site of the fatal accident imply that Staley did not apply brakes before the crash with the team bus and did not attempt to correct his driving after he passed over two sets of rumble strips installed in the pavement of the highway and then drove some 800 feet through a grassy median before coming to a stop.
Investigators with the Oklahoma State Bureau of investigation found a “small silver-type smoking pipe,” in Staley’s semitrailer.
A chemist for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Paul Wallace, said during testimony that the residual substance in the silver pipe, a form of synthetic marijuana, was not considered “illegal” until months after the accident.
Defense attorneys for Staley claim that he had been reaching across the passenger seat of his cab for a soda when he lost control of his vehicle.
Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is never a good idea under any circumstance. Accidents involving cars and larger trucks can be very dangerous and even deadly. They can turn even more so when the driver of a large over the road vehicle is under the influence.
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