A Miller County jury Wednesday sentenced an Ozan, Ark., man to 20 years in prison for causing the death of a 24-year-old husband and father in 2017.
Forrest Rector Stewart Jr., 64, was high on methamphetamine Nov. 2, 2017, when he crossed more than seven feet into the oncoming lane of traffic on Highway 67 in Miller County. James Crowe’s small Hyundai Accent was struck nearly head on. James Crowe died at the scene.
It took the jury less than half an hour to find Stuart guilty of negligent homicide while intoxicated. During closing remarks, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Cotten reminded the jury of testimony from law enforcement, first responders and medical personnel regarding Stewart’s behavior after he smashed his pickup.
Many of the witnesses testified that Stewart was loud, angry, agitated, cursing, combative and uncooperative at the scene and at a local emergency room in Texarkana. After determining Stewart did not have a head injury or other medical condition that would explain his unusual behavior, they concluded he was impaired for another reason.
Stewart’s blood showed a high level of methamphetamine, a toxicology expert from an Indianapolis, Indiana, lab testified Tuesday.
During the punishment phase of Stewart’s trial, the jury heard from James Crowe’s mother, sister and wife, under questioning from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell. Their testimony brought many in the courtroom, including jurors, to tears.
“On that day, part of me died with my son and that was because of you,” Tammy Crowe testfied.
Tammy Crowe said she has forgiven Stewart because she doesn’t want to carry bitterness and anger.
James Crowe’s sister, Brittany Brown, testified that she never imagined a life without her brother. Brown said she has struggled to be there for her own children and husband as she lives in a world of grief.
Kristen Crowe told the jury she turned 21 the day before her husband was killed. She was supposed to begin a new job the day of the crash and that when she heard there had been a fatality on the highway, she feared it was her husband. James Crowe was seven miles from his job in Texarkana when he was struck.
Kristen Crowe said she got no answer when she tried to call her husband. She said she pulled up to the accident scene and got the attention of a Miller County deputy. After speaking with the deputy, Kristen Crowe was approached by Arkansas State Police Trooper Dale Young, who delivered the devastating news.
“I will be an old woman in love with a man who never made it past 24,” Kristen Crowe said. “He was my best friend, my soul mate. He was so good and now he’s just gone because you chose to do what you did.”
Stewart took the stand during the punishment phase of his trial and answered questions from his attorney, Theodis Thompson of Little Rock. Stewart aplogized to the Crowe family.
In addition to a maximum 20-year prison sentence, the jury assessed a maximum $15,000 fine.