Benjamin Lee Powers was originally charged with felony criminally negligent homicide in the death of Caderrius Deshaw Green of Gilmer, but the charge was upgraded to manslaugher "based on evidence the investigation showed," Dist. Atty. Billy Byrd told The Mirror Thursday.
Green was ejected from the westbound Ford F-250 pickup driven by Powers when it overturned several times on FM Road 49 about one mile west of Gilmer, authorities said. Powers and his other passenger, 17-year-old Cody Garcia of Gilmer, escaped injury, said investigating Department of Public Safety Trooper Brandon Love.
The indictment alleges Powers was "passing a motor vehicle in a no-passing zone on the crest of a hill" and exceeding the speed limit, causing the pickup to leave the roadway, overturn multiple times, and eject Green, said Byrd.
The district attorney said he could not comment on whether drugs or alcohol were involved in the crash. However, that isn't alleged in the indictment, he said.
Powers is free on a $20,000 bond under "pre-trial supervision," banning him from driving, requiring he report to a probation officer weekly, and stipulating he undergo random drug tests, Byrd said.
The initial charge against him carried a punishment range of six months to two years in state jail. But upgrading the charge to manslaughter, which is "reckless causing of the death" rather than mere negligence, puts the punishment range at 2-20 years in prison, Byrd said.
He said the DPS did an accident reconstruction of the incident.
The crash, reported at 8:27 p.m., occurred when the truck passed a car atop a hill, ran off the roadway's left side into a ditch, was overcorrected, and rolled several times, landing on its top, Love said at the time.
None of the pickup's three occupants were wearing seat belts, the trooper said. Green was sitting in the back seat behind Powers, while Garcia was in the front seat, Love said.
Upshur County Justice of the Peace W.V. Ray said he pronounced Green dead at the scene at 9 p.m.
The manslaughter indictment against Powers came only eight days after the grand jury no-billed another male teen-ager on a potential charge of criminally negligent homicide in connection with another fatal accident. (See last Wednesday's Mirror for details.)
The grand jury returned a total of 10 indictments Wednesday, while no-billing three cases, Byrd said. Two of the indictments were sealed because the defendants hadn't been arrested, he said.
Defendants, charges, and bonds in the open indictments were as follows, Byrd's office said:
David Dewayne Townsend, 44, of Longview, possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) last Aug. 9, $10,000
Joshua Ladon Haynes, 26, of Gilmer, driving while intoxicated with child passenger on Jan. 11, $10,000
Karl H. Hill, 56, of Longview, driving while intoxicated; subsequent offense last Nov. 24, $20,000
Kevin Dale Upchurch, 47, of Gilmer, driving while intoxicated; subsequent offense on Jan. 1. He remained in county jail under $25,000 bond.
Jeffrey Jason Porter, 32, of Longview, theft of property of the value of $1,500 or more but less than $20,000 last Nov. 8, $5,000
Anna Victoria Aguillon, 19, of Gilmer, aggravated assault with deadly weapon on Jan. 23, $15,000
Andrew Lee Robinson, 40, of Hawkins, theft of property of the value of $1,500 or more but less than $20,000 on Jan. 13, $5,000
The sealed indictments were for forgery, while the no-billed cases involved one felony charge of retaliation, and two misdemeanor charges of "assault causes bodily injury," Byrd's office reported.