A driver who hit and left the scene of an accident that killed Lorri Lynn Garst in 2018 on Interstate Highway 44 in Wichita County testified Tuesday morning.
Last week, Steven Ray Douglas, who is 61, admitted that he caused an accident that killed someone. For the second-degree felony, you could go to jail for two to twenty years. On Monday, his punishment hearing started in the 89th District Court. Judge Charles Barnard will decide what his sentence will be.
On Tuesday, Douglas told Garst’s family that he was sorry for what had happened and that he wished it had been him instead of someone else. Douglas said that every day he thinks about it.
At the end of defense lawyer Dustin Nimz’s questions, Douglas apologized again, said he should have stopped, and started crying.
On November 15, 2018, Garst was killed in an accident that flipped her SUV in the northbound lanes of I-44 near Bacon Switch Road. The Wichita Falls woman, who was 53 years old, was thrown from the car and died at the scene.
Around 12:30 a.m. the next day, a trooper from the Texas Department of Public Safety caught Douglas. Monday, witnesses said that he was driving too fast and strangely before the accident, which happened around 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15, 2018.
A witness told the judge Monday that she saw Douglas’s car drive between a minivan and Garst’s SUV, hitting the SUV and making it roll.
Douglas, who lives in Burkburnett, told the judge that he was driving back from doing laundry in Wichita Falls when the accident happened. He said that there were a lot of cars on the road at the time.
Douglas testified that he wasn’t sure if he hit Garst’s car or if her SUV hit the Chevy Malibu he was driving, but he did see Garst’s car go in front of him and into the middle.
He said in court that he sped up because he thought there might be more than one car in the accident and that he might get hit from behind or the side. He was feeling shaken.
He said that Douglas took the next exit, got out of the Malibu, and at one point started walking up the exit ramp toward the highway. He met Francisco Ochoa and his mother, who lived in Lawton.
Ochoa said in court on Monday that his mother followed Douglas from I-44 after the accident, when he didn’t stop. She pulled up next to him and asked him what was going on while Ochoa got the Malibu’s license plate number. Douglas did not seem to know what was going on.
Douglas said in court that he saw other people who were already there helping Garst. Douglas thought he might be in trouble with his own health. When he saw that help was being given, he went home to Burkburnett to wait for his wife.
Douglas talked about his health problems, like bladder cancer, prostate cancer, and a bigger-than-normal heart.
Douglas said that if he was sent to jail, he wouldn’t be able to walk to the lunch room and getting his medical care would be hard. Douglas was afraid that because he had been in jail before, he would be picked on and used.
During the cross-examination, the assistant district attorney for Wichita County, Matt Shelton, brought up Douglas’s past crimes.
At least one of his arrests happened in the 1980s, when he pleaded guilty to third-degree aggravated assault. Douglas has also been found guilty of minor crimes.
Shelton asked Douglas, “Would you agree that you have trouble following rules?”
“No, I don’t have trouble following rules,” Douglas replied.
Shelton said that he had just read off Douglas’s past offenses.
“All I was trying to do out there was stay alive,” Douglas said.
He finally admitted that he has a hard time following rules.
Shelton asked him if he had been going too fast the day of the accident.
Douglas said that he was doing his best to keep up.
Shelton asked him what the woman’s name was who had died.
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Douglas said in court that he had “no idea.”
Barnard kept the hearing going after Douglas testified so that Dr. Joshua Caballero of United Regional Health Care System could testify as a medical expert.
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