At 9:35 January 2, 2012, Conroe Police responded to a major accident on I-45 just north of League Line Road. Officers, fire and EMS attempted to reach the scene but were snarled in traffic that had already built up on the area of road that is only two lanes with concrete barriers on each side and no shoulders.
Other units came in from north of the scene and counter flowed to reach the crash. Conroe Fire Department also had one truck stuck in the traffic, so they had to dispatch additional trucks and call upon North Montgomery County Fire Department to assist. One victim was reported to be trapped in the vehicle.
As officers approached they were told a white Chevrolet pickup was also involved in the crash and fled the scene. That vehicle was reported to have extensive front end damage. An attempt to locate was put out to DPS
Firefighters worked to free Tammy Rhoades from the vehicle. Extrication was difficult due to the damage of the vehicle. It had been hit so hard that the floor pan and seats had been blown out through the bottom of the Pontiac Grand Am. She died on the scene. It was later learned Ms. Rhoades left a celebration of her 45th birthday just prior to the crash.
As the Conroe Police CORT team arrived on the scene and started investigating the story told by one of the drivers was not adding up.
According to Conroe Police, William Ramirez, 23, of Huntsville was north bound on I-45 in his white Toyota when he had a flat tire and thought it was on fire, causing him to stop in the moving lane of traffic, since there were no shoulders.
Tammy Rhoades was behind Ramirez, and seeing the vehicle stopped, she stopped behind him with her flashers on. That is when 21-year-old Tyler Shelton, of 12652 Lake Vista in Willis said he was driving his black Chevrolet pickup and saw the white pickup strike the green Grand Am. Shelton said he was unable to stop, and slammed into the Grand Am after the white truck struck it and pushed it from the right lane to the left lane.
After examining Shelton’s truck, investigating officers realized there most likely was no white truck, and that it was Shelton whose vehicle struck the Grand Am initially.
Green paint transfer, green paint chips and other items on Shelton’s truck were consistent with Shelton being the only driver who struck Rhoades’ vehicle. That collision occurred with such force that her front license plate was imprinter in the rear bumper of Ramirez’s vehicle.
There were no other injuries. TxDOT responded to the scene to assist in traffic control, since the freeway did not reopen until after 3 a.m.
Tyler Shelton plead guilty to the felony offense of Intoxication Manslaughter in the 221st District Court Thursday. Tammy Rhoades, the victim in the case, was killed upon impact with Shelton’s vehicle. In an agreed plea, Shelton was sentenced to ten years-probation, six months jail, 400 hours of community service including presentations to schools and DWI victim’s groups, maintain a marker at the site of the crash, establish a college fund for the victim’s children, and several other conditions. The victim’s family was present in the courtroom and had asked the Assistant District Attorney handling the case, Warren Diepraam, to agree to these terms of punishment rather than a prison sentence. In a tearful victim impact statement, the victim’s daughter spoke about how the loss of her mother has affected her and the family. Many of the victim’s family members were there to show their support of the case. The defendant also gave a statement where he apologized to the victim’s family and asked for their forgiveness. Several of his family members were in the courtroom as well. Diepraam stated that the practice at the District Attorney’s Office is these offenders deserve prison sentences, but each case is unique depending on the facts and circumstances. Diepraam stated that in this case, the victim’s family’s request for a probationary sentence with strict conditions was what prompted the offer.