Jackson County Courthouse

Jackson County Courthouse

EDNA — A bench trial began Tuesday to determine whether a man was at fault for a 2019 crash that killed a 12-year-old Ganado boy.

Prosecutors said on Oct. 29, 2019, 12-year-old LaMarquis Lee was killed when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by a pickup truck traveling at nearly twice the posted speed limit. The driver, Brian Gunter, 46, had a blood alcohol content that exceeded the legal limit.

Lee was sitting in the second seat row of a Toyota Highlander driven by his grandmother, Assistant District Attorney Stephen Tyler said. Lee had just finished football practice and was traveling in the vehicle to his father’s home in Ganado. While driving, Lee’s grandmother attempted to turn left near the intersection of East York and Brown streets in Ganado when the Highlander was struck by Gunter’s Dodge Ram pickup. Lee was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

District Judge Robert Bell is presiding over the trial, which is not before a jury. Instead, Bell will decide whether Gunter is guilty or not guilty.

In his opening statement, Tyler said the pickup’s black box shows Gunter was traveling 99 mph on a road with a posted speed limit of 50 mph when he struck the Highlander.

The pickup impacted the Highlander on the side that Lee was seated, sending the vehicle into a clockwise spin and ejecting Lee from the vehicle into a ditch outside his father’s home, Tyler said.

Lee’s injuries were numerous and severe, Tyler said.

Lee’s father, Michael Lee, found his body after hearing a loud impact from his home, Tyler said.

Immediately after the impact, as Lee’s father cried over his son’s body, Gunter approached the crash and began berating Lee’s grandmother, Tyler said. Gunter insinuated that Lee’s grandmother was intoxicated and directed racial pejoratives at her, saying “She ought to be laying in that ditch beside (Lee).”

This behavior continued after police officers arrived, Tyler said.

Officers then administered a field sobriety test on Gunter and found that he exhibited several clues of intoxication, Tyler said. Gunter was issued a portable breath test, “which the defendant refused to do or would not provide a sufficient breath sample.”

Gunter demanded a blood test and was transported to Jackson County Hospital, Tyler said. One hour after the collision, Gunter’s blood was taken and he was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.129. The legal limit in Texas is 0.08.

Lee’s grandmother submitted to a portable breath test at the scene, and it came back all zeroes, Tyler said.

Defense attorney Boyd Shepherd, of Houston, decided to present his opening statement after the prosecution’s witness testimonies.

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Cody covers the business beat for the Advocate. He can be reached at (361) 580-6504 or cbaird@vicad.com

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Business Reporter

Cody Baird reports on business and breaking news in the Crossroads region. He served in the Air Force and received his Bachelor's in journalism at Texas A&M University. Reach him at cbaird@vicad.com.

(3) comments

Glenn Wilson

Another tragic, innocent victim killed by the actions of others. Given the enormously high rate of speed of the pickup and the intoxicated state of the driver it's too easy to place all the blame there. However, if the driver of the Highlander hadn't made the obviously ill-advised left turn right into the pickup's path, apparently without noticing its high rate of approach speed, the accident wouldn't have happened at all.

Wayne Kroll

Glenn, you second sentence is not call for considering you do not have the all the evidence that will be presented in the case. You are at the same age of the driver, you can make a split-second decision for a vehicle going at 100 mph at any time at an intersection that you expect them to stop?

Glenn Wilson

Wayne, my 2nd sentence is taken from the article's 5th paragraph, "In his opening statement, Tyler said the pickup’s black box shows Gunter was traveling 99 mph on a road with a posted speed limit of 50 mph when he struck the Highlander.". Sorry, I need a translation for your 2nd sentence, but my thought was that the Highlander's driver should have noticed that the pick-up was close and traveling at a high rate of speed before turning left directly in its path. If she had just waited a few seconds for it to pass there would have been no accident no matter its speed or the condition of its driver. That said, You're correct, I have no evidence. I just have the article.

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