Emotions stirred by sentencing of man involved in fatal crash

2715
The Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office placed a digital speed monitor at the LA 3 (Benton Road) and Kingston Road intersection, requested by Sheriff Julian Whittington, following a fatal crash last fall.

Attention turns to safety at intersection and stretch road where accident occurred

By Amanda Simmons, amanda@bossierpress.com

The Plain Dealing man involved in a fatal crash that killed a four-year-old girl last November will begin his jail sentence Friday.

Bossier District Judge Mike Nerren handed down the 10-day sentence on Shane Christopher DeMoss, 48, with the provision that it could be served over five weekends. In doing so, DeMoss, who pleaded guilty to running a red light, would get to keep his job.

The Nov. 19 crash claimed the life of Katie Grantham. The preliminary investigation revealed that 34-year-old Morgan Grantham of Benton was making a left turn onto LA 3 from Kingston Road when her vehicle was struck by DeMoss. Grantham had a green signal at the time of the accident.

Katie, who was properly restrained at the time of the crash, was transported from the scene with critical injuries. She succumbed to her injuries on Nov. 26.

Morgan Grantham spoke at the sentencing and described her family’s pain and grief since Katie’s passing. 

“If my Katie would have met you, she would have loved you. Because that is all she ever knew….love,” she said. “Whatever sentence you receive here will never equal ours. Ours is a life sentence.”

Katie Grantham

The crash that killed Katie was the fifth accident at the LA 3/Kingston Road intersection in 2017. Three of those reported were minor accidents and two were major accidents with injuries.

The Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office placed a digital speed monitor at the LA 3 (Benton Road) and Kingston Road intersection, requested by Sheriff Julian Whittington, following the crash. What they found was that not all motorists were following the posted speed limit.

“It’s not a suggestion. It is the law,” Maj. Charles Gray, Patrol Commander for the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office, previously told the Press-Tribune.

In April, the speed limit at Benton Road/LA Hwy. 3 from Wemple Road to Burt Boulevard in Bossier Parish was dropped from 65 miles-per-hour to 55 mph. The reduction is a result of a traffic study of the LA 3 corridor along the 6-mile stretch of road.

“A number of factors were analyzed in that study, including crash data, spot speed studies, the multiple changes in posted speed limits, and the rapid development in the corridor,” Erin Buchanan, DOTD public information officer, said. “While we don’t release specific crash data, we can say that the recommendation and ultimate approval from the DOTD Chief Engineer to reduce the speed limit from 65 mph to 55 mph along this corridor is an effort to reduce the potential for severe injury crashes.”

The DOTD District Traffic Office also conducted a travel time study, which indicated that decreasing the speed limit by 10 mph would only increase travel time along this 6.4 mile corridor by 38 seconds.

Based on funding availability, Buchanan said a feasibility study may be conducted by DOTD in the future to determine if a system of J-turns would be appropriate for this section of LA 3. J-turns reduce the risk of crashes – and specifically the risk of severe crashes – such as side-collisions or T-bone type accidents.

While safety measures such a reduction in speed limit or a system of J-turns are sometimes appropriate for a particular section of roadway, it is imperative that motorists operate their vehicles safely, Buchanan said. This includes not driving while impaired or distracted, and adhering to posted speed limits.

Bossier District Attorney Schuyler Marvin met with Louisiana State Police accident investigators numerous times to discuss potential charges. Marvin said he concluded the facts of the case did not justify negligent homicide charges and there was no evidence of drug or alcohol impairment to justify the more serious charge of vehicular homicide.

DeMoss was working for an energy services company at the time and driving a company vehicle, traveling 57 mph in a 55 mph speed zone, Marvin said. Running a red light in this case carries a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail.

State Troopers did administer a field sobriety test on DeMoss at the scene of the accident. However, they did not administer a breathalyzer test and no blood was drawn for a toxicology test. Marvin said it was because the victim was still alive and there was not probable cause to get a search warrant to draw blood, which is required by law.

Troopers searched DeMoss’ truck five days after the wreck and found a small amount of methamphetamine. Marvin said his office has not decided whether to file drug possession charges, conceding the defense could argue the meth could not be linked to DeMoss.

The Granthams have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against DeMoss and his employer that day, Stuart Petroleum Testers of Texas, accusing him of careless and reckless operation of the vehicle.

Katie is described by her parents as fearless. She loved to hunt frogs, dig for worms, and chase bunnies all while wearing a tutu dress with a super hero emblem, ruffle leggings, and mismatched socks and shoes.

She was also funny. Just looking at her facial expressions could get the whole dinner table rolling with laughter, Morgan Grantham wrote in her obituary.

The Granthams continue sharing Katie’s story via social media. They created a Facebook page, Team Katie Bug, and have organized community events to honor her memory, including a book giveaway on April 12, which would have been Katie’s fifth birthday.

“Now, as for us, this isn’t the end of this,” a recent post on the Team Katie Bug page says. “There are far more people to hold accountable. Even the driver should have more earthly consequences. And as much as I want everyone to feel the love that Katie felt and showed the world, I’ll be damned if I quietly sit by and don’t push for change.”