A drunk driver rear-ended a car on Highway 30 on Tuesday night, killing a woman, her fiancé and their infant when their car careened off the highway, caught fire and struck a tree, authorities said.
Family and police identified the victims as Lacey K. Newton, 25, her fiancé Cordell S. Williams, 30, and their 4-month-old son. They lived in Bonne Terre.
The driver accused of causing the wreck about 10 p.m. Tuesday is David Goss Thurby, a 26-year-old man from Fenton. On Wednesday afternoon, Jefferson County Prosecutor Trisha C. Stefanski charged Thurby with DWI, causing the death of two or more people.
"I had seven shots of Crown and water," Thurby told a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper after the crash, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
Thurby was being held without bail Wednesday at the Jefferson County Jail.
A preliminary test revealed that Thurby had a blood-alcohol level of 0.192 percent, or more than twice the legal limit, the trooper said in a probable cause statement.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol said the couple and their infant boy were in a 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix heading east on Highway 30, west of Upper Byrnes Mill Road. Newton was driving, Williams was in the passenger seat and their baby was in an infant car seat in the back.
Another eastbound vehicle, a 2016 Chevrolet Cruze driven by Thurby, was behind Newton's Grand Prix.
The patrol said Thurby "failed to keep a proper lookout ahead" and hit the back of the Grand Prix. Both vehicles ran off the road and hit trees, police said.
The family's car caught fire, and the infant's body was found in the burned vehicle.
Newton was wearing a seat belt; Williams was not. All three victims died at the scene.
Thurby, who was not wearing a seat belt, suffered minor injuries, police said. Court records do not list an attorney representing him yet.
Thurby told a trooper at the scene that while driving along Highway 30 he "blinked and the next thing he knew his vehicle was in (the) ditch," according to court papers.
His eyes were watery and bloodshot, and he smelled of liquor, the trooper said. When the officer asked Thurby if he'd been drinking, he talked about the seven shots of whiskey with water.
In addition to DWI, the prosecutor charged Thurby with four misdemeanors, including possession of marijuana and driving in a reckless manner.
Newton and Williams had three sons together, all under the age of 5. Their youngest, the infant who died, had the same name as his father, Cordell Shawn Michael Williams.
Their other sons are 2 and 4. They were staying at the home of Williams' mother, Cecilia Williams, while the couple took the infant to St. Louis to visit Newton's mother, Williams told the Post-Dispatch on Wednesday.
Williams and Newton's mother, Jennifer Mattox, were mourning together along with other relatives in Bonne Terre. They were making funeral arrangements so that all three can be buried alongside one another.
Williams said they were trying to determine how to let the surviving boys know their parents are gone. "We're still trying to figure out how to tell them, that's the hardest thing. Especially the oldest one, you know, he wants his mom and dad. He understands things better."
When she heard that the driver that hit their car was suspected of being intoxicated, Williams said she was furious.
"I hope and pray that he gets what is coming to him," she said. "I hope the justice system does not fail."
But Williams said she also prays for the suspect's family "because they have to deal with knowing that their child killed three people."
She said her son worked construction jobs until a downturn in the pandemic. He was trying to get on with a temporary service to find a new job.
Newton worked at a factory in Fenton that makes pepper spray.
Mattox said her daughter was a "happy, loving person" and a good mother to her three boys. She met her fiancé through a mutual friend seven years ago.
Asked about the driver who was arrested, Mattox fumed. "To be honest with you, I don't know the kid but he made a piss-poor decision," she said.
"He took a family, you know?" Mattox said. "I just hope that he realizes what he's done."