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Witnesses talk about deadly collision

Witnesses talk about deadly collision

July 12th, 2018 by Lynn LaRowe in Texarkana News

NEW BOSTON, Texas —A Bowie County jury is expected to hear closing arguments today in the punishment-only trial of a Texarkana woman who was drunk when drove into a motorcycle being driven by an Army veteran and father of eight.

Callie Marie Jones, 58, pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter but asked that a jury decide her punishment in the Sept. 3, 2017, death of 29-year-old Skylar Crenshaw on New Boston Road in Texarkana, Texas. The state is asking for prison time; the defense is hoping for probation.

Skylar Crenshaw

Skylar Crenshaw

Jones faces a punishment range of two to 20 years. However, if the jury sentences her to 10 or fewer years and recommends probation, Jones will receive a suspended sentence, including a mandatory 120-day jail sanction.

Callie Jones

Callie Jones

"I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me," testified witness Brandi Crowder, who was eastbound on New Boston Road in the right lane as Crenshaw drove in the left some distance ahead of her.

"The last thing I remember seeing was his arm disconnect," Crowder said under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp.

Crowder and two other eyewitnesses testified that Crenshaw was driving at the 40 mph speed limit. Crowder said she did not see Jones' silver two-door Honda Civic moving into the roadway from Reading Street, but she is certain Crenshaw did.

Crowder and witness Jesse Gray Jr. testified that Crenshaw swerved to the right in an attempt to avoid the Honda seconds before the fatal collision. Crowder said Crenshaw may have increased his speed at the last moment in an effort to evade the crash.

Gray was traveling directly behind Crenshaw in the left lane when the wreck occurred and became overcome with emotion as he testified Wednesday afternoon.

"I was on my way to church," Gray said. "I slammed on my brakes and stopped. I tried to walk up to Mr. Crenshaw. I saw his arm was not with him, and I backed up and just started crying."

Gray said he was so traumatized by the event that he was unable to give police a statement at the scene. Crowder said she too was in shock after seeing the motorcycle break into pieces and Crenshaw's arm severed from his body by a utility pole guide wire.

Latrice Hankins testified under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards that she saw Crenshaw on his motorcycle a few minutes before his death and admired his handsome face.

"I noticed that he was being very careful," Hankins said. "He was not speeding or driving recklessly. He was looking in the mirrors and checking before every move he made."

Hankins became visibly upset and was asked by 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart if she needed a break as court staff handed her a box of tissue. Hankins said she was behind a car in the right lane, presumably Crowder's, when she saw the Honda zip into the intersection.

"I saw the motorcycle pieces fly everywhere. I saw him get hit. There was a pole," Hankins said, struggling to remain composed.

Hankins said she went to Crenshaw's body after the crash and immediately knew he was dead.

"People were coming up and I was telling them to get back, he's gone," Hankins said. "They were stepping over his arm, and I had to tell them to stop stepping over his arm, and don't touch his arm."

Dallas Medical Examiner Janis Townsend-Parchman testified that Crenshaw was nearly decapitated and suffered compound fractures in both legs.

Texarkana, Texas, Police Department officers Billy McAnnaly, Brent Hobbs, Jordan Starkey, Aaron Wafford, Rod Taylor and Daniel Linn and crime scene Investigator Marc Sillivan testified about how the crash occurred and how they determined Jones was under the influence.

Officers determined Jones was traveling on Reading and intended to cross New Boston Road onto Crockett Street. When Jones struck Crenshaw, her car suffered substantial front-end damage. Traffic was completely halted as officers worked to collect evidence and take measurements.

Officers testified that Jones smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot eyes and was unable to perform field sobriety tests successfully. Jones consented to have her blood drawn at a local hospital, did not flee the scene and fully cooperated, the witnesses testified under questioning from Jones' defense team, Joe Tyler and Shorty Barrett of Texarkana.

Tests showed Jones had a blood-alcohol level of .30, more than three times higher than the .08 limit at which drivers are legally deemed too impaired to drive.

Jones admitted under questioning by Tyler that she has a problem with alcohol for which she has never received help. Jones, who has no prior criminal history, admitted that she consumed gin, a glass of wine and four or five beers before driving from her home on Crockett Street to her daughter's home about 5 miles away. Jones said she was on her way back home when she struck Crenshaw.

While Jones admitted she is responsible for Crenshaw's death, she testified that she never saw the motorcycle, claiming that her view may have been affected by the sun.

The crash occurred under clear skies at about 6:30 p.m.

"I have an alcohol problem, and I really need some help with my problem," Jones testified. "I want to say I'm sorry to the Crenshaw family. I hope deep down inside you find it in your hearts to forgive me."

Jones has been outfitted with a leg monitor that will alert officials if she consumes alcohol since her release on bond 10 months ago and has not had a drink.

Under cross examination by Crisp, Jones testified that she has driven under the influence four or five days a week for the last six years after testifying that she doesn't really drive drunk "that much."

Jones' daughter and close friend asked the jury to give Jones probation, describing her as a good mother, grandmother and friend.

Crenshaw's mother's grief was palpable as she spoke of the "total devastation" at losing her firstborn.

"Anything he wanted to do, he made happen," Camille Mosely said. "He was well-loved by everyone. He was a beautiful person."

Mosely testified that Crenshaw served in Iraq and "watched friends die there," and that he left behind eight young children.

Crenshaw worked at Red River Army Depot and was an experienced motorcyclist, Mosely said.

Both the state and defense rested and closed their cases Wednesday evening. The jury today is expected to hear arguments from the state and defense on what Jones' punishment should be after hearing instructions from Lockhart on the law they must follow.

A verdict is expected later today.

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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