Former Montgomery County Pct. 1 Deputy Constable James Earl Selmser, III was convicted of Intoxication Manslaughter on Thursday in Montgomery County 221st District Court with Judge Michalk presiding. He was sentenced to 30 months in TDCJ on Friday by a Montgomery County Jury. This in connection with the death of 21-year-old Deputy Catherine Breeding with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. The off-duty tragedy occurred when Selmser, then 26, left a club in Huntsville after a night of drinking. He was given a ride to his apartment by some friends. A short time later another set of friends arrived at the apartment. They had also been with him but stopped to eat on the way back to Conroe. As they got to the apartment they called and asked Selmser to move his Harley, which he owned for only a month. Selmser went out and cranked his bike up. He said in testimony that he planned to just move it so his friends could park their car. He was not wearing any safety equipment and his blood alcohol was more than twice the legal limit. He said that is when his longtime friend Catherine ask him to go for a ride. Selmser said it was more like. Please, please, please. Even though his friends told him not to he did. They left his apartment and were just basically going around the block. As they were south on the I-45 feeder near South Loop 336 a car pulled out in front of him. Selmser quickly changed lanes and braked. The action caused him to crash. Breeding died at the scene, Selmser was taken to the hospital where he claimed he doesn’t remember anything. Investigators determined the motorcycle inspection sticker expired two years prior and he did not have a motorcycle endorsement on his drivers license.
Selmser started at a young age in law enforcement. He graduated high school in Baytown where he was involved in ROTC. HE then took a job at San Jacinto Mall doing security. He was then offered employment at Memorial Hermann Woodlands where when he turned 21 he was sent to school to be certified and carry a weapon. He was then accepted into the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Academy. He made the cut that only 19 were able to do with the hundred that applied. He came out of the academy and went to work for Montgomery County Precinct 1 Constables Office. His job entailed operating the motorist assistance unit and patrol. Later he was moved to the Lake Patrol. There he worked the lake looking for intoxicated boaters, but also teaching boating safety to school children.
Breeding had gone to work for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Like her dad said, “they must have thought a lot of her to give a 21-yer-old a fast car and a pistol.” She loved law enforcement, even as she grew up she was always helping people. Always involved in school functions and always wore a smile. Her and Selmser were very god friends.
Unlike Thursday when the jury found Selmser guilty and there seemed to be relief on Catherine Breeding’s side of the courtroom with hugs among family members and just a large gasp on the Selmser
Side. Friday took a complete different turn.
Selmser told the family he was sorry for what happened and he prayed about it everyday. He was asked by the prosecutor why he had waited so long to tell them this. He had over a year and questioned his sincerity. He responded with,” my bonding papers signed by the judge forbid me from contacting the family.” He went on to tell the jury that he knew he shouldn’t have driven that night and admitted he had driven intoxicated before. A motion was filed earlier seeking probation for which he told the jury he wanted to do community service talking to groups about the dangers of drinking and driving. Prosecutor Mike Holley suggested it would make more of an impact if he told the groups he talked to that he went to prison for what he did and not send a message that he was given probation for the death of Breeding.
After four hours of deliberations the jury which could have sentenced Selmser from 2 to 20 years and a fine up to $10,000. That sentence, 30-months in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Catherine Breedings mother, Barbara then took the stand to give her victim impact statement. She faced Selmser in tears and told him how he took their daughter from them. How she hoped one day to see her walk down the aisle. The memories of her but yet she told him she forgave him.
Catherine’s father Steve Breeding was next. He told Selmser how his daughter was taken from him. He talked of the night he awoke to his wife coming into the room screaming that Catherine was dead. Then following his wife to the study to be met by a wall of Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputies who delivered the news. He said his statement was different than his wife’s. It was then Steve Breeding stood and taking a business card out of his pocket said, “James, I am going to give you my card, when you get out I want you to contact me, we are going to meet and I want both of us to talk to these students and groups about the danger of driving while intoxicated.” James agreed and with the Judges permission Breeding and Selsmer embraced. There was not a dry eye in the courtroom. As he to told Selmser he too forgave him.
Later Catherine Breeding’s father, Steve, told MCPR he loved and missed his daughter and was saddened “beyond description” that she was taken when she had just found “her true calling.” He said she loved law enforcement and approached it with enthusiasm, and her death was everyone’s loss.
But Steve Breeding said his sadness extended beyond the loss of his beloved daughter. He said he was “sorry for the whole event,” and knew there was no malicious intent. Breeding said he realized Selmser’s life was ruined when Catherine’s life was lost.
Not only has Steve Breeding forgiven Selmser, he said he believed Selmser when he said the tragedy had changed him and he wants to make a difference in the lives of others. With a level of compassion that few could fathom, Breeding said while awaiting the jury’s return, he thought he should be on stage beside Selmser when he speaks. Breeding said he would focus on the dangers of driving while intoxicated, and on “the love and forgiveness of Christ.”
“That’s what allows me to forgive him,” he said of Selmser. “If he and I can work together on letting people know that message, the impact of two is more than the impact of one.”
Prosecutor Mike Holley said the trial was “sad from start to finish,” and Catherine Breeding was “a beautiful young lady with amazing parents.”
They showed more grace today in this courtroom than most of us will ever see in a lifetime,” Holley said.
MCSO Deputy Brandon Bartoskewitz was Catherine’s field training officer and attended the trial. He called her an “awesome deputy” who “learned very quickly, and showed a keen interest and a passion” for the job.
Ironically, Bartoskewitz has been recognized more than once for his DWI enforcement and for going above and beyond to collect evidence and make a strong case.
“Nobody should ever have to go this way – in such an avoidable way,” he said. ”It shouldn’t happen, and having it happen to a peace officer and by a peace officer is beyond any type of reason.”
Sheriff Gage and his Administrative Assistant Deanne Riley were in court for the entire week of the trial as were many deputies. Sheriff Gage and Riley both left the courtroom together noticeably affected also by the outcome and what had occurred between Steve Breeding and James Selmser. The Sheriff agreed when Riley said, “this is what happens when two Christian families are brought together.
The case was prosecuted by Mike Holley and Tyler Dunman. The defense team was Brent Mayr.