Man charged with manslaughter

Caldwell

A Washington County man is charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with a motor vehicle accident that occurred last August and resulted in the death of his wife.

Charles Caldwell, 40, of Cadet, was formally charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, driving while intoxicated - chronic, and driving while revoked.

According to a probable cause statement by Cpl. A. Woods of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, on Aug. 5, 2018, at 11:02 p.m., Troop C Communications notified the trooper of a two-vehicle, head-on collision with a possible ejection that had occurred on Highway 21 at Tindall Road.

The trooper states in his report that upon arriving on the scene, he observed two Chrysler passenger cars with heavy front-end damage.

The trooper reported that a 2002 Chrysler Sebring convertible was in the grass ditch off the west edge of the highway and he observed emergency personnel extracting a man from the driver's seat. A computer check of the vehicle’s registration revealed the owner was Barbara Caldwell, of Cadet.

The trooper reported witnessing the other vehicle involved in the crash, a 2005 Chrysler Sebring belonging to Lauren Johnston, 35, of Festus, blocking the northbound lane of the highway facing westward. Woods reported he made contact with Johnston who, when asked about the crash, said she was traveling north on Highway 21 to Festus when she saw headlights in her lane. According to the report, Johnston said she remembered braking but was unable to avoid the southbound vehicle because it happened so quickly.

After refusing treatment from medical personnel on the scene, Johnston was transported by private conveyance to Parkland Health Center in Bonne Terre.

According to the statement, emergency personnel informed the trooper that a woman from the 2002 Sebring had been ejected and was found lying on the ground next to the driver's side of the vehicle. She had already been transported to Washington County Memorial Hospital upon Wood’s arrival.

Woods then made contact in the back of a Washington County Ambulance with the male driver of the 2002 Sebring, and identified the man as Charles “Randy” Caldwell.

While speaking with Caldwell, Woods reported, he noticed the man’s eyes were glassy and bloodshot and he smelled alcohol on his breath. Woods asked Caldwell how much he had to drink and the man mumbled, “nothing,” according to the statement.

Woods reported he noticed Caldwell's speech was slow, slurred, and raspy. Woods asked if Caldwell would submit to a preliminary breath test and he replied, “No, how's my wife?” Woods assured Caldwell that his wife was being treated by emergency personnel and again asked him if he would submit to a breath test and he reportedly slurred, “I ain't doing [expletive]. I want to know how my wife is,” according to the statement.

Caldwell was placed under arrest for driving while intoxicated.

Woods read Missouri’s Implied Consent Law to Caldwell, which states that upon reasonable request by police to submit to a breath or blood test, a refusal to do so results in a presumptive one-year license revocation, and the trooper then requested a chemical sample of Caldwell’s blood, to which Caldwell agreed, according to the statement. Caldwell was released for medical treatment and was transported by Washington County Ambulance to St. Anthony’s Medical Center in St. Louis.

An investigation of the crash scene revealed that Caldwell was driving the 2002 Chrysler Sebring south in the northbound lane of Highway 21. Johnston was driving her 2005 Chrysler Sebring north on Highway 21. Johnston applied her brakes and skidded, and, according to the report, the front left of Caldwell's Sebring struck the front left of Johnston's Sebring. After the impact, Caldwell's vehicle rotated counterclockwise and traveled off the west edge of the roadway where it overturned onto its passenger side, ejecting Barbara.

Caldwell's car came to a rest on its wheels, off the west edge of the roadway, facing east.

Johnston's vehicle rotated counterclockwise and came to a rest in the northbound lane, facing west. Woods states in his report that he located no physical evidence indicating Caldwell made any attempt to avoid the head-on collision.

At Washington County Memorial Hospital, Trooper Woods identified the female front passenger of the 2002 Sebring as the driver's wife, Barbara Caldwell. Emergency room staff informed him that Barbara was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. that night, according to the report.

Woods followed up with Johnston a couple of days after the crash to ask about any possible injuries she had sustained, the report said, and Johnston said she was diagnosed with a severe right ankle sprain, a possible fracture of her right heel, and a contusion of her chest wall.

According to court records, Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Hegdecorth filed charges against Caldwell on July 26, and a warrant was served last week with a bond set at $50,000, cash-only. If released on bond, Caldwell is prohibited from consuming alcohol.

A review of Caldwell’s criminal history shows he has five prior convictions for driving without a valid license and two prior convictions for driving while revoked. Additionally, Caldwell has four alcohol-related convictions including a felony aggravated offense, as well as three other prior alcohol-related arrests. Caldwell also has nine failure-to-appear violations in prior criminal cases.

According to the complaint, Caldwell faces up to 47 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

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