Prosecutor: Plea deal result of facts of the case, expert opinion

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By Staff

The prosecutor who handled the case against a truck driver who killed three people in a 2017 traffic accident shared some of the facts behind the outcome with The Kentucky Standard Friday.

Richie B. Warren entered a guilty plea on Monday, which dismissed two counts of reckless homicide and amended a third count and a wanton endangerment offense to lesser charges.

According to Joe Ballard, assistant commonwealth attorney and prosecutor in the case, members of the family of the deceased participated in the mediation and were agreeable to the terms of the plea.

“There was no evidence that Warren was operating the tractor-trailer under the influence,” Ballard said. “He was traveling at approximately the speed limit and there was no evidence he was driving erratically prior to the collision.”

Ballard also noted Warren had told witnesses he felt light-headed and had passed out. He was a diabetic and had medical documentation that indicated the cause of the crash was Warren passing out due to a medical syncope that was beyond his control, Ballard said.

As noted in the plea agreement, Warren was in possession of hydrocodone and had the drug in his system at the time of the crash. He also had a prescription, but the drug was not in the proper container. Ballard said Warren only had trace amounts of hydrocodone in his system and that an expert reviewed the toxicology results but could not conclude Warren was impaired as the result of any type of controlled substance when the crash occurred.

On May 11, 2017, Warren was driving a tractor-trailer on the Bluegrass Parkway when he crossed the median and struck an oncoming vehicle occupied by a Harrodsburg couple, Delmer and Delores Odell, and their two grandchildren. The impact killed Delmer, Delores and 3-year-old Keren Odell. Keren’s 5-year-old sister, Phoebe, was the lone survivor of the Odell vehicle but sustained serious injuries.

In October of last year, Warren was indicted on the reckless homicide and endangerment charges, though no drug references were made in the indictment.

According to the judgment, one of the reckless homicide charges was amended to possession of a controlled substance not in a proper container, and the endangerment charge was amended to reckless driving. As part of the plea deal, Warren was sentenced to 90 days in jail and ordered to pay a $100 fine. He was also conditionally discharged for two years provided he commits no new offenses, undergoes a substance abuse assessment and forfeits his commercial driver’s license for the rest of his life.