VERDICT: The jury found Bryant Childs guilty Thursday afternoon of one count of negligent homicide in the death of Elizabeth Ann Davis and five counts of second-degree assault of the surviving drivers and passengers of vehicles at the railroad track: Brandon Lloyd, Michael Carter, David Mitchell, Randi Mitchell and Madison Mitchell. The jury, however, deadlocked 10-2 on sentencing. Circuit Judge Bynum Gibson will impose the sentence at a later date.
All of the crimes are misdemeanors, including the negligent homicide. Negligent homicide in a vehicle accident is a misdemeanor when there are no drugs or alcohol involved.
The truck and asphalt-loaded trailer Bryant Childs was driving the day it crashed into Elizabeth Ann Davis’ minivan should have never been on the road, according to an Arkansas State Police official who testified Wednesday afternoon at Childs’ Drew County manslaughter trial.
Arkansas State Police Cpl. Lowell Stephens, who conducted the post crash inspection of Childs’ truck, said he found bald and cord-exposed tires, six of 10 brakes out of adjustment, no documented annual or daily vehicle inspections and no proof of insurance or trailer registration. He also found that the vehicle was more than 6,000 pounds over the gross vehicle weight rating.
The truck crashed into westbound vehicles waiting for a train to pass at the railroad crossing on U.S. 278 at Wilmar in October 2012.
Elizabeth Ann Davis, a 66-year-old retired school teacher from Warren, was killed in the six-vehicle crash.
Childs, who jumped from the truck prior to the crash, is charged with manslaughter and numerous counts of aggravated assault.
Monty Pride, who oversees commercial drivers license testing for the Arkansas State Police, told the Drew County jury that the owner is responsible for an annual safety inspection and the driver’s responsibility to do a daily vehicle inspection before he puts the it on the road.
The defense maintained that it was the owner’s responsibility to see that the truck was safe to operate.
Among several key witnesses Wednesday, the first day of the 31-year-old Warren man’s manslaughter trial, was Warren homemaker Linda Faris, who recalled hearing a “tremendous noise” and seeing a white minivan and asphalt truck “fly” past her and hit another truck.
Faris, the driver of one of the vehicles waiting for the train to pass, recounted the events leading up to the crash. She said she was traveling from Monticello to Warren when she came upon vehicles stopped for a train at the railroad crossing.
“I pulled into the right hand lane behind a semi,” she said, “and the white van pulled to my left rear behind a log truck. I did not sit very long before I heard a tremendous noise and my vehicle shook violently. I did not know what happened until I saw the van and (asphalt) truck fly past me and hit the semi.”
Faris said she called 911 then got out of her vehicle. Upon exiting her vehicle, she saw a man lying in the road attempting to sit up. She said the man told her he “jumped” onto the highway.
“It was not clear to me at that time where he was prior to jumping on the road,” she said.
The man was Childs, the driver of the asphalt truck.
Deputy Prosecutor Crews Puryear asked Faris if she had any warning that anything was coming up behind her prior to the crash.
“I heard no horn,” she said. “I heard no squealing tires on the pavement.”
Faris said she didn’t know what happened until she saw the white van and asphalt truck “fly” in front of her vehicle.
Several other witnesses involved in the crash testified Wednesday afternoon.
Brandon Lloyd, the driver of a service truck, said his truck rolled upon impact and his head hit the door twice. The welding machine that was in the back of his truck landed on top of the log truck.
All of the witnesses testified that they had no warning prior to impact.
On cross-examination of each of the witnesses involved in the accident, Childs’ defense attorney asked them if they had ever been involved in an automobile accident and attempted to question them about their opinion of Childs’ state of mind at the time of the accident.
Circuit Judge Bynum Gibson admonished the attorney. “It’s not for these witnesses to say what Mr. Childs’ state of mind was at any point in time,” Gibson said. “That is for the jury to determine…. I don’t want to have to admonish you again.”
Court recessed Wednesday afternoon just minutes into the testimony of an accident reconstruction expert.
According to Arkansas State Police Cpl. Tiffany Dycus’ accident reconstruction report, Davis’ minivan was stopped on U.S. 278 in the inside westbound lane behind two trucks at the railroad crossing. There were also two vehicles stopped in the outside lane.
Childs, according to the report, was traveling west in the inside traffic lane approaching the stopped vehicles.
“Mr. Childs saw the stopped vehicles and braked, skidding approximately 413 feet,” the report reads. “Mr. Childs exited his vehicle at this point by jumping from the cab and landing in the center turn lane.”
Childs’ vehicle continued, uncontrolled, in a northwesterly direction and struck Davis’ vehicle causing her vehicle to collide with another vehicle.
The purpose of the accident reconstruction was to determine the speed at which Childs was traveling. However, could not be determined with available evidence, according to Dycus’ report.
When she began to discuss possible scenarios, using the word “optimum” in describing braking performance, Judge Gibson excused the jury for the day.
Gibson said the expert witness could state her opinion in providing possible scenarios but he took issue with her basing those scenarios on optimum, or perfect, braking performance.
Gibson suggested that the prosecutors meet with her and review her testimony before trial resumes Thursday morning.