BELTON — The state presented 11 witnesses in today's sentencing portion of 30-year-old Dana Beth Tackett's trial in the Bell County District Court. The defense is slated to present its case after the court reconvenes around 1:15 p.m.
Tackett stands accused of killing 29-year-old Killeen resident Dante Fair while driving while intoxicated on U.S. Highway 190 in Nolanville on July 10, 2013.
Tackett, who plead guilty Monday to one second-degree felony charge of intoxicated manslaughter and one third-degree charge of intoxicated assault with a vehicle, will have her punishment decided by a Bell County jury later today.
At the time of the accident, Fair was riding in the passenger seat of co-worker Maota Esau's Acura. Esau was giving Fair a ride home after both had finished shifts at the H-E-B distribution center in Temple, Esau said during his witness testimony.
According to witness Jerry Garretson Jr., who was driving behind the Acura at the time of the accident, Tackett was driving her Hyundai Tiburon the wrong way on the highway when she collided head-on with Esau's vehicle on the overpass in Nolanville.
"The car, in my estimation, looked like it jumped," Garretson said, describing what he saw when Tackett's vehicle hit the Acura.
Garretson said Esau's vehicle appeared to have split in half and hung halfway off of the road's left-side guardrail.
He and his wife, Lisa Garretson, who was in their car with their 12 and 9-year-old sons, called 911 and got out to assist the passengers.
Lisa Garretson testified that she went over to the Tiburon, and saw Tackett was unconscious and could clearly smell alcohol. Lisa Garretson then went to assist Esau and Fair.
"(Esau) kept saying 'this was my fault' and 'is my friend, OK,'" Lisa Garretson said while on the stand.
Lisa Garretson said Fair was not moving with his head leaning on the passenger window and his legs splayed across Esau. She said she could hear what sounded like blood gurgling in his lungs.
Chad Hayes, a forensic scientist with the Texas Department of Public Safety in Waco, said Tackett's blood-alcohol sample, which was taken several hours once she was admitted to Scott and White Hospital for her injuries, was at .27, nearly two and a half times over the legal limit.
Tackett sustained a broken hip, spine, tibia, fibia, traumatic brain injury and a dislocated knee.
Esau, who was also admitted to Scott and White Hospital in Temple, sustained several fractured bones and a severe laceration to his tongue, which has caused permanent damage affecting his speech at times.
Fair, who's autopsy showed he suffered from several broken bones, organ damage, brain hemorrhaging and blood-filled lungs, died shortly after arriving at Scott and White Hospital.
Fair leaves behind an 8-year-old son, DeShawn.
Upon identifying his body at the hospital, Fair's mother Julia said she was able to say her goodbyes.
"I touched him, I kissed him and I told him I loved him," she said on the stand.
Tackett faces up to 20 years in prison on the intoxicated manslaughter charge and a maximum of 10 years in prison for intoxicated assault.
If the jurors find she used her vehicle as a deadly weapon, she would be required to serve at least 50 percent of her sentence before being eligible for parole.
Contact Courtney Griffin at email@example.com or 254-501-7559