L IVINGSTON — Prosecutors claim 33-year-old Brad Welch, talking on a cell phone as he pulled into his driveway, was too distracted to see the 6-year-old Watson boy he hit and killed in 2012.
Welch’s defense attorney argues there’s no way Welch could have seen the child, even if Welch hadn’t been talking on the phone.
Their arguments were laid out Friday in a Livingston Parish courtroom packed with spectators in a negligent homicide case that has stirred outrage among many in the community.
Brad Welch, of 9197 Rue de Fleur in Watson, hit Tyler Myers, the son of his neighbors Jamie and Ericka Myers, on Sept. 24, 2012. The boy later died at a hospital.
The death of Tyler, 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.
Assistant District Attorney Greg Murphy, laying out the case in his opening statement Friday, said Welch had left his home earlier on the day of the accident to pick up his daughter.
Welch was driving home, had reached a three-way stop and was talking to his mother on his cellphone at the time, Murphy said.
Tyler Myers was riding a two-wheel scooter on the sidewalk with his brother and a friend nearby.
Tyler crossed the driveway, fell off his scooter, and was struck by Welch’s truck, Murphy said.
Welch noticed the boy’s body only after he had parked.
Investigators later discovered Welch had alcohol in his system at the time of the crash, Murphy said.
An analysis of a blood sample drawn about two hours after the accident revealed a 0.06 blood alcohol content level, just shy of the 0.08 level that in Louisiana is considered presumptive evidence of driving while intoxicated.
The state contends Welch’s blood alcohol level was at or above 0.08 at the time of the accident, Murphy said.
But Michael Thiel, Welch’s attorney, said his client drank “just a glass of wine” earlier in the day, not enough to constitute driving while impaired.
First responders also did not see Welch exhibit any signs of intoxication and only drew blood samples as a matter of protocol in a fatal accident, Thiel said.
Welch was not cited initially in the accident, but Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested him about a week later on Oct. 10, 2012, after determining Welch did not see the boy because he was distracted by talking on his cellphone.
Welch was later 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.
The death of the child was a horrible accident but there’s no evidence of criminal negligence in the case, Thiel argued Friday.
“There is no proof that Brad Welch was committing any crime,” Thiel said.
Despite prosecutors’ claims that Welch was too distracted by the cellphone conversation to have seen Tyler, Thiel said there’s no way Welch could have seen the boy even if he had not been talking on the cellphone.
Thiel said the boy was on the ground after he fell and was difficult to see. The attorney also argued that other objects, such as the stop sign and nearby bushes, might have blocked Welch’s view.
Welch told investigators he felt a bump as he pulled into his driveway. He said he never saw where the 6-year-old came from, according to the statement filed in Livingston Parish Clerk of Court.
Welch said he got out of the truck, found Tyler, then moved the boy to the grass and called 911.
On Friday, dozens of family members and friends from both sides packed the small courtroom well before the bench trial began before Judge Bob Morrison, of the 21st Judicial District.
A number of friends and family grieved as they piled into the courthouse. Tyler’s parents, Jamie and Ericka Myers, embraced each other before walking into the courtroom.
Myers family members had hoped Morrison would issue a verdict on Friday, but Morrison said his decision would be delayed because one witness could not make it to court due to a scheduling conflict.
The trial had recessed by early afternoon Friday. No date has been set yet to continue the proceedings, the District Attorney’s Office said.