BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A woman has been found guilty of five counts of negligent homicide in a deadly road rage crash that claimed the lives of two adults and three children.
Judge Trudy White presided over the bench trial of Kelsye Hall, 26, of Baton Rouge. White said she did not believe the testimony from defense witnesses who claim they did not believe Hall was trying to cut off another defendant.
Prosecutors say they had a tough case to start with but they are obviously pleased with the outcome. "I think in this case the judge took the entire circumstance into consideration and it wasn't just what happened at that moment," says Ron Gathe chief prosecutor on the case. "Again I think we proved that this happened over three or four miles. I think she took that into consideration. I appreciate the fact that she found her guilty based on that information."
Defense attorney Alfred Williams took exception with the judge's verdict. The trial was not a jury trial but a bench trial. "I'm very very disappointed in the verdict, "says Williams. " I think we put forth evidence that just contradicts totally what the judge has decided. I even questioned whether or not the judge's ruling is correct."
Hall burst into tears as she was immediately taken into custody by officials with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office. She faces up to 25 years in prison. It breaks down to zero to five years on each count. White set August 20 as the sentencing date. Defense attorneys said they might appeal the conviction but are not happy with Hall being taken to jail immediately.
"Remanding her on charges like this was totally a surprise," said Williams. "I'm not sure why that reaction to remand her on negligent homicide where she's been out and not in trouble of any nature; it really surprised me that she would do that."
The crash happened on I-10 East between Highland Road and Manchac on March 13, 2011, leaving five people from Prairieville dead.
The victims were identified as:
Effie Fontenot, 29
Kimberly Stagg, 19
Keagan Fontenot, 11
Hunter Johnson, 7
Austin Fontenot, 3
Louisiana State Police reported Hall was driving the sport utility vehicle involved in the wreck. Troopers said she was driving ahead of David Leger, 29, of Palmetto, on I-10 West and for some distance, they were both driving recklessly.
It is believed Leger tried to pass Hall, but she wouldn't let him. Investigators suspect Leger's truck clipped the front of Hall's SUV, which sent him across the median.
Authorities said the truck collided head-on with the Acura the victims were riding in and the car burst into flames.
Troopers said Leger is suspected of being impaired at the time of the crash. He is charged with five counts of vehicular homicide. His case has not yet gone to trial.