EDNA — A bench trial began Tuesday to determine whether a man was at fault for a 2019 crash that killed a 12-year-old Ganado boy.
Prosecutors said on Oct. 29, 2019, 12-year-old LaMarquis Lee was killed when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by a pickup truck traveling at nearly twice the posted speed limit. The driver, Brian Gunter, 46, had a blood alcohol content that exceeded the legal limit.
Lee was sitting in the second seat row of a Toyota Highlander driven by his grandmother, Assistant District Attorney Stephen Tyler said. Lee had just finished football practice and was traveling in the vehicle to his father’s home in Ganado. While driving, Lee’s grandmother attempted to turn left near the intersection of East York and Brown streets in Ganado when the Highlander was struck by Gunter’s Dodge Ram pickup. Lee was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
District Judge Robert Bell is presiding over the trial, which is not before a jury. Instead, Bell will decide whether Gunter is guilty or not guilty.
In his opening statement, Tyler said the pickup’s black box shows Gunter was traveling 99 mph on a road with a posted speed limit of 50 mph when he struck the Highlander.
The pickup impacted the Highlander on the side that Lee was seated, sending the vehicle into a clockwise spin and ejecting Lee from the vehicle into a ditch outside his father’s home, Tyler said.
Lee’s injuries were numerous and severe, Tyler said.
Lee’s father, Michael Lee, found his body after hearing a loud impact from his home, Tyler said.
Immediately after the impact, as Lee’s father cried over his son’s body, Gunter approached the crash and began berating Lee’s grandmother, Tyler said. Gunter insinuated that Lee’s grandmother was intoxicated and directed racial pejoratives at her, saying “She ought to be laying in that ditch beside (Lee).”
This behavior continued after police officers arrived, Tyler said.
Officers then administered a field sobriety test on Gunter and found that he exhibited several clues of intoxication, Tyler said. Gunter was issued a portable breath test, “which the defendant refused to do or would not provide a sufficient breath sample.”
Gunter demanded a blood test and was transported to Jackson County Hospital, Tyler said. One hour after the collision, Gunter’s blood was taken and he was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.129. The legal limit in Texas is 0.08.
Lee’s grandmother submitted to a portable breath test at the scene, and it came back all zeroes, Tyler said.
Defense attorney Boyd Shepherd, of Houston, decided to present his opening statement after the prosecution’s witness testimonies.
Cody covers the business beat for the Advocate. He can be reached at (361) 580-6504 or [email protected]