Caleb Henry Kent, 28years old, plead guilty today in Judge C. Wood’s court to one count of Intoxication Manslaughter and two counts of Intoxication Assault arising out of a crash that occurred on August 31, 2008 on Highway 105 east of Whipporwhill Road. In an agreed plea bargain agreement with the District Attorney’s Office, Kent was sentenced to twenty years in prison for Intoxication Manslaughter and two ten year sentences for the Intoxication Assault cases. The Intoxication Manslaughter charge was stacked consecutively on the Intoxication Assault charges meaning that Kent will have to serve the entire twenty year sentence before he begins serving the ten year sentences.
The crash occurred at approximately 4:00 AM on this date when Kent drove into oncoming traffic on SH 105, missing two vehicles before striking the vehicle occupied by the victims. The vehicle carrying the victims was being used to evacuate them from the approach of Hurricane Gustav. Esther McDonald was killed as a result of injuries sustained in the crash and there were several others who received injuries including Ella Read and Tommye Mortimore. In court, Mortimore detailed the severe injuries she received including at least twelve reconstructive surgeries.
Trooper M. Franklin of the Texas Department of Public Safety conducted the investigation and learned that Kent had consumed alcohol and also taken several medications all of which resulted in his impaired driving and the crash. Franklin went to the hospital that night and took a blood sample from Kent after he failed a sobriety test. The sample revealed that Kent was under the influence of alcohol, codeine, and alprazolam. Kent was released on bond after his arrest, but jailed again after being arrested for Public Intoxication. He remained at no bond after prosecutors filed an additional charge on Kent for that offense.
The prosecutor handling the case, Cindy Pulcher, stated that the sentence sends a strong message that impaired drivers abusing drugs and alcohol will face severe consequences for their conduct. She stated that the victim’s family will never heal, but that the criminal justice chapter is now closed in that Kent accepted responsibility and also gave up all his appellate rights. Kent could have been prosecuted for Felony Murder under the law, but the prosecutors elected this sentencing option since it may result in a lengthier prison stay depending on the Board of Pardons and Parole. The Vehicular Crimes Chief, Warren Diepraam, stated that there is an epidemic in this county of people abusing prescriptions and that the office is working with all law enforcement to ensure that the illegal prescription writing and fraud is curtailed. Diepraam stated that this case is an example of the real life consequences of prescription abuse.
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