Both sides rest in negligent homicide trial

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Both the state and defense rested Tuesday evening in the trial of a 64-year-old man accused of being high on meth when he caused a fatal crash in November 2017 on Highway 67 in Miller County.

Forrest Rector Stewart was driving a 2001 Ford truck northbound Nov. 2, 2017, on Highway 67 when he crossed more than seven feet into the southbound lane, striking James Crowe’s small 2009 Hyundai Accent nearly head on at about 6:45 a.m., testified Arkansas State Police Trooper Dale Young. Crowe, 22, was on his way from his home in Hope, Ark., to a job in Texarkana. He had been married for a couple of years and his son, now 3, was just an 18-month-old.

Under questioning from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell, veteran paramedic William Thomas testified that Stewart’s behavior at the scene was atypical for a crash victim.

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“I mean, sometimes they’re screaming from pain, but not cussing us,” Thomas said.

Thomas and numerous other first responders and members of law enforcement described Stewart as “cursing, beligerent and aggressive,” under questioning from Mitchell and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Cotten.

Stewart’s attorney, Theodis Thompson of Little Rock, questioned the first responders about how different people behave differently in stressful circumstances.

Crowe died at the scene. Photos of the wrecked vehicles showed that Crowe’s driver side door was mangled into the heavy and extensive front-end damage to Stewart’s truck.

Samples of Stewart’s blood and urine were collected by Texas-side officers in the company of Arkansas State Police troopers from Wadley Hospital in Texarkana, Texas, where Stewart was taken for treatment of his injured leg and foot, testified Trooper Jamie Grazier.

Grazier said that when he arrived at the accident scene, he approached the wrecked Hyundai. A tarp covered the drivers side of the car, shielding Crowe’s lifeless body from view.

“I could hear a phone ringing. It rang and rang and then stopped. Then it would start ringing again,” Grazier said.

Grazier said the area of the crash was a straight, flat piece of highway near a newly constructed Federal Express distribution center. Grazier said the weather was clear.

Kristen Mauldin, an analyst with the Arkansas State Crime Lab, testified that Crowe’s blood tested negatively for drugs or alcohol. Stewart’s blood tested positively for methamphetamine.

Stewart’s sample was sent to Indianapolis, Indiana, Axis Forensic Toxicology for analysis to determine just how much meth was in Stewart’s system. Toxicologist Kevin Shanks testified that the level in Stewart’s blood was high, indicating he had used within several hours to a day of the collision.

Shanks testified that he believes Stewart was intoxicated at the time of the wreck.

“My scientific opinion, after hearing all of the testimony today, combined with the forensic testing results, I’m of the opinion he was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time,” Shanks said.

After both sides rested, Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson released the jury of eight women and four men for the evening with instructions to return to the Miller County courthouse Wednesday morning for closing arguments.

If convicted of felony negligent homicide, Stewart faces two to 20 years in prison. If found guilty of misdemeanor negligent homicide, Stewart faces up to a year in the county jail.

Stewart is currently free on bond.

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