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SULPHUR, Okla. (AP) — Prosecutors have presented evidence to send a Texas man charged with multiple counts of first-degree manslaughter to trial in the September 2014 deaths of four college softball players.
Murray County Associate Judge Aaron Duck says he’ll consider all of Thursday’s testimony before making any decisions about sending defendant Russell Staley to trial, as well as which charges he might face.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says Staley lost control of his semitrailer on Interstate 35 and broadsided a North Central Texas College softball team’s bus, tearing the vehicle open.
Four women were killed in the crash: Meagan Richardson, 19, of Wylie, Texas; Katelynn Woodlee, 18, of Windom, Texas; and Jaiden Pelton, 20, of Telephone, Texas, The Oklahoman reported. Brooke Deckard, 20, of Scurry, Texas, was transported by helicopter to a hospital in Sulphur, where she died shortly after.
Eleven other women were injured in the crash, along with the coach.
The softball team had been returning to Gainesville, Texas, from Bethany, where they had played a scrimmage against Southern Nazarene University hours earlier.
Staley was treated at a hospital the night of the crashed, but was released quickly.
Prosecutors allege that he was under the influence of synthetic marijuana at the time of the crash. They point to a lack of skid marks at the site of the crash, which they say indicate that he didn’t brake before impact. Attorneys for the state also noted that Staley didn’t attempt to correct his driving after he passed over two sets of “rumble strips” and drove at least 800 feet through a grassy median.
A “small silver-type smoking pipe,” was found in his semitrailer “one or maybe two days” after the fatal accident, said patrol trooper Ken Duncan.
An Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation chemist, Paul Wallace, said during testimony that the residual substance in the silver pip wasn’t deemed “illegal” until months after the accident. He also told the judge that little is known about the effects of synthetic marijuana on the human body.
After the accident, Staley told Oklahoma Highway Patrol investigators that he was reaching across his passenger seat for a soda when he lost control of the vehicle. His attorneys maintained that argument during testimony Thursday.
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