Toxicologist: Man accused in boy’s death may have been drunk

Defense disputes argument in case of 6-year-old’s death

A toxicologist testified Tuesday that a man accused of negligently hitting and killing a 6-year-old boy in Watson in 2012 likely had a blood-alcohol level above the state’s legal limit for driving at the time of the crash.

The director of the North Louisiana Criminalistics Lab in Shreveport, Jimmy Barnhill, estimated Brad Welch’s blood-alcohol content level could have been anywhere between 0.09 percent and 0.12 percent at the time Welch’s truck hit and killed Tyler Myers.

He based that assessment on scientific extrapolations of a blood sample from Welch taken two hours after the fatal accident in Welch’s driveway on Rue de Fleur in Watson.

A 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving in Louisiana.

Michael Thiel, Welch’s attorney, contended Welch only had one glass of wine about an hour before the accident and was not impaired. He said police have testified Welch showed no signs of intoxication after the crash.

But Barnhill said Welch could not have consumed only one glass of wine because his body would have processed the alcohol by the time the accident occurred.

Welch, 33, is standing trial for negligent homicide in the Sept. 24, 2012, death of Tyler Myers, the son of Welch’s neighbors, Jamie and Ericka Myers.

Welch is accused of running over the boy after turning his truck into his driveway. The boy later died at a hospital.

Assistant District Attorney Greg Murphy, the prosecutor in the case, pointed to possible intoxication as proof — even greater than Welch talking on a cellphone during the accident — that he was negligent in killing the boy.

Murphy, while questioning Barnhill, said officers took a blood sample from Welch at 8:57 p.m. that showed a 0.06 percent blood-alcohol level. A second blood sample taken at 10:47 p.m. showed a 0.03 percent level.

Toxicologists used the samples to extrapolate Welch’s possible blood alcohol level at the time of the crash.

Thiel argued stress from the accident might have had an effect on Welch’s absorption rate of the alcohol. He also said it’s possible Welch went into his home after the accident and consumed more alcohol following the traumatic situation before police arrived.

In any event, Thiel argued, Welch’s blood-alcohol level is irrelevant because a shrub, a mailbox and the frame of his truck prevented him from seeing the boy laying on the ground regardless of whether he was intoxicated.

Before Barnhill took the stand, Thiel had asked state District Judge Bob Morrison to bar the toxicologist’s testimony, saying the state’s evidence is not strong enough to prove Welch was driving while intoxicated at the time of the crash.

“If there is no evidence to support impairment ... then this testimony is irrelevant,” Thiel told Morrison.

Murphy countered the state is trying to prove criminal negligence, not driving while intoxicated, and Welch’s elevated blood-alcohol level was proof of negligence.

If Welch wouldn’t have consumed any alcohol before the crash, “Tyler Myers would be here today,” Murphy argued.

Morrison denied Thiel’s motion, as well as Thiel’s later request for acquittal on the same grounds.

The death of Tyler Myers, a student at North Live Oak Elementary School in Watson, led to a large candlelight memorial at Live Oak Ballpark, where a medical helicopter had picked the boy up and taken him to a hospital.

Welch was not cited initially in the accident, but Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested him on Oct. 10, 2012, after determining Welch did not see the boy because he was distracted by talking on his cellphone, the Sheriff’s Office has said.

Welch was released on $25,000 bail.

A Livingston Parish grand jury declined to indict Welch in January 2013, but the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office filed charges against him about a month later.

Family members of Tyler Myers flooded a small courtroom at the Livingston Parish Courthouse on Jan. 17 when the bench trial began.

Family members again packed the courtroom Tuesday, albeit in a larger room in the courthouse’s annex across the street.

The crowd was left disappointed when Morrison, the judge, delayed the trial a second time after Thiel said he only received Barnhill’s toxicology report a week ago.

The attorney said he needed more time to review the report and call his own witness to rebut Barnhill’s testimony.

No date has been set to resume the trial.

Jamie and Ericka Myers, clad in yellow attire in memory of their son’s favorite color, stepped out of the Livingston Parish Courthouse after the proceedings in a quiet and somber mood, holding hands as they walked to their car.

The Myers, who appeared noticeably frustrated, declined to speak to a throng of reporters awaiting them as they left.

Murphy told reporters that the defense attorney received Barnhill’s report Feb. 11, but he said the judge made the right call to give the defense more time to prepare.

“I’m disappointed for the victim’s family, because it’s been so long,” Murphy said.