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St. Louis Man Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal 2010 Car Crash

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Motor Vehicle Accident on Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A St. Louis grand jury has indicted a 20-year-old member of the Air Force for involuntary manslaughter in connection with a violent car crash in June 2010 that killed the man’s girlfriend, who was riding in the passenger seat of his SUV. Prosecutors and the victim’s family say that the defendant purposely ran a stop sign while angry, but the man says that he was distracted and did not see the stop sign. If convicted, he could be sentenced to seven years in prison.

In Missouri, to convict a defendant of involuntary manslaughter prosecutors must show that the defendant “recklessly” caused another person’s death, instead of the death being an accident. The “reckless” behavior must be proven to have been a “gross deviation” from what a “reasonable” person would have done under the same or similar circumstances. Just what a reasonable person would have done is up to the court to decide, based on the circumstances of the particular case.

In this case, the defendant was driving down a one-way street with his girlfriend, 21, the evening of July 5, 2010. Both prosecutors and the defendant agree that the couple was engaged in an argument over a party that the defendant wanted to go to, but that the victim was unable to attend due to a shift at her job.

As the defendant’s SUV drove down Holly Hills Avenue, he later said, a tree branch blocked his view of a stop sign at an intersection. Another SUV came from the south and struck the vehicle, causing it to bounce back and forth between parked cars for 50 yards down the street. The impact threw the victim from the vehicle. She died at the scene.

The defendant admits that he was speeding, but says he was “distracted” by the argument and did not see the stop sign. But St. Louis police say that he twice admitted to them shortly after the collision that he knew that stop sign was there.

It took the grand jury eight months to indict the man. In the meantime, he married one of the victim’s friends, joined the Air Force and moved away from St. Louis. Now he is back, unable to leave Missouri until his case is resolved. Involuntary manslaughter is a class C felony that carries a maximum seven-year prison sentence.

The victim’s family is convinced her death was not the result of an accident. Her mother said the defendant “took a part of me” that she cannot replace.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Accident or a crime? Man charged in St. Louis crash that killed girlfriend,” Stephen Deere, Aug. 30, 2011

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