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Charges filed in fatal crash

A local man is facing several charges after authorities say he was drinking and driving and caused a crash that killed a Potosi man.

Robert Phares, 42, of Potosi, is being charged with a class C felony of driving while intoxicated resulting in death, a class A misdemeanor of failure to drive on the right half of the roadway and a class D misdemeanor of failure to maintain financial responsibility.

St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin said there was a reclassification of the involuntary manslaughter statute, so the driving while intoxicated resulting in death charge is basically the same elements of involuntary manslaughter.

“It will say DWI, but it will say reclassification on the name of a charge. It will be the exact same elements I have though,” Mahurin explained. “Whenever they did the reclassification they changed the names of some of the charges and the range of punishment for some of the charges. It’s just one of those that was changed, but it’s all the same.”

Mahurin said when he went to charge this one he actually looked up the involuntary manslaughter statutes. It actually fits under this DWI charge when there is a death.

According a probable cause statement from the Missouri State Highway Patrol that was presented to the prosecutor’s office, on Dec. 15 at 6:14 p.m. the reporting trooper was notified of a crash off Highway 185 near Pleasant Hill Road that possibly involved a fatality.

The trooper said the crash actually happened closer to Puckett Road and when he arrived six minutes later he saw a red 2002 Dodge Neon and a red 2016 Chevrolet 2500 pickup truck off the west side of the road. He noted that both vehicles had extensive front-end damage.

The trooper was told the driver of the Neon, who was trapped in the car, was not breathing and did not have a pulse. The driver of the Neon was later identified as Aaron Kurtz, 38, of Potosi, and the driver of the truck was Phares.

The trooper discovered the tag on the pickup truck came back as not on file through the Department of Revenue and after a brief check of the truck he determined there was no proof of insurance either.

The trooper reported that before he spoke with Phares he overheard one of the first responders state that Phares’ father had shown up on scene and removed a cooler that was thrown out of the pickup truck.

The trooper noticed that Phares’ father was standing by his truck as firefighters were trying to extricate Kurtz from his Neon. One of the firefighters told the trooper that Phares claimed he was fine and refused medical treatment.

The trooper added to his report that when he first spoke to Phares he stumbled toward him. Phares was asked if he was the driver of the truck and he stated that he was.

The trooper noted in his report that as he spoke with Phares he noticed several Miller Light cans were laying around the truck and he could smell alcohol coming from him. The trooper asked Phares how much he had to drink and Phares told him “two.”

The trooper also asked Phares if he had any alcohol after the crash and Phares said he did not. Phares also told the trooper that he was driving home and the other driver had crossed into his lane. The trooper asked Phares where he had been coming from and Phares told him he was coming from work.

The trooper made note that Phares told him three times that he lived right down the road and that he appeared nervous while speaking with him. Phares also avoided eye contact and kept his distance while speaking to the trooper.

The trooper noted in the report that Phares’ eyes were bloodshot and he had slurred speech. Once in the patrol car the trooper asked Phares for a breathe sample. He agreed and had 0.147 percent blood alcohol content.

The trooper said it took Phares two attempts to provide an adequate breath sample. The first time he wasn’t blowing any air into the instrument and was acting like he was out of breath. Before the second attempt, the trooper explained he needed to blow a hard, steady and long enough stream of breath into the machine until he said to stop.

The trooper reported that Phares did not follow his instructions and barely provided an adequate sample. The trooper asked him if he preferred a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test and Phares agreed.

After the trooper gave the test, he again asked Phares for a sample of his breath and he agreed. Phares blew a 0.143 percent blood alcohol content and did not cooperate with blowing properly again.

At 6:34 p.m., based on the troopers observations, Phares’ statements, preliminary breath tests, the field sobriety test and evidence of the crash, Phares was placed under arrest for DWI resulting in death.

Phares was read his rights and shortly after Phares stated he would provide a sample of his blood to determine the blood alcohol content level.

An investigation of the crash by the Major Crash Investigation Unit revealed that Phares was traveling north, crossed the centerline and struck Kurtz’s vehicle. This caused Kurtz’s Neon to spin counter-clockwise and go off the west side of the roadway.

After impact, Phares’ truck crossed back over into the northbound lane, then back into the southbound lane and then he went off the west side of the road. Both vehicles were on the west side of the roadway facing north. As a result of the crash Kurtz was killed.

On Feb. 23, the trooper received a copy of Phares’ toxicology report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab and it showed that Phares’ blood alcohol content the day of the crash was estimated at 0.203. Missouri’s legal blood alcohol content limit is 0.08 percent.

Phares was being held in the Washington County Jail on a $75,000 bond and has since posted bond with a bondsman.

Phares

Phares

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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