BELTON — A Bell County jury will decide the fate of a woman accused of killing a man while driving drunk on U.S. Highway 190 in Nolanville last year.
Dana Beth Tackett, 30, of China Spring, pleaded guilty to one second-degree felony charge of intoxicated manslaughter and one third-degree felony charge of intoxicated assault with a vehicle in Bell County District court on Monday in connection with the July 10, 2013, death of 29-year-old Dante Fair.
Tackett’s guilty plea meant the trial would go immediately to the sentencing phase, with the jury deciding her punishment after hearing the facts of the case.
According to police reports, Tackett was driving east in the westbound lane of the highway just after midnight July 10. Bell County prosecutor Mike Waldman played multiple 911 calls from drivers who witnessed Tackett’s vehicle and the aftermath of the crash.
“(The speed limit) is 75 miles per hour, and someone going the wrong way could be devastating,” said Keisha Murray, a former Nolanville police officer who responded to the scene of the accident that night.
Murray testified she heard the initial reports of Tackett’s car driving the wrong way on the highway. She raced to get to the scene but was too late. Tackett’s car collided head-on with an Acura.
Fair was sitting in the passenger side of the vehicle when the crash occurred and was severely injured, along with the vehicle’s driver, Maoto Esau. Tackett, along with Fair and Esau, were taken to Scott & White Hospital in Temple, where Fair died from his injuries.
Esau suffered a severe laceration to his tongue, and Tackett suffered a fractured ankle and an injury to her knee.
Police drew a blood sample from Tackett. A Texas Department of Public Safety lab later showed her blood-alcohol level to be 0.20, more than twice the legal limit, the documents stated.
In his opening statement to jurors, Waldman said they would hear not only from police, emergency responders and medical experts, but from Fair’s friends and family.
“What you will hear is how (Fair) left behind a loving family,” Waldman said.
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.
Testimony will continue today.