Bonds now total $830,000 for blind man charged in fatal hit-and-run

Williams arraigned on two counts each of manslaughter, aggravated assault

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

May 22, 2008 - A Sulphur Springs man accused of killing two construction workers and injuring two others in a hit-and-run crash on Saturday has been served with four additional charges.

John Steven Williams, 58, of Sulphur Springs remained in the county jail Thursday morning in lieu of $200,000 bond each on two counts of manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon -- i.e., his truck.

Williams was initially charged with two counts of criminally negligent homicide and four counts of failure to stop and render aid, all state jail felony offenses. Bail on those six charges was initially set at $5,000 for each charge. His bonds now total $830,000, according to jail reports.

Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Ronny Glossup, who arraigned Williams and set the bond amounts, said Thursday morning the added offenses of manslaughter and aggravated assault will likely mean some of the initial offenses will be dropped.

"I believe the indication is the criminally negligent homicide charges will be dismissed, due to the four charges added Tuesday, but the failure to stop and render aid will still be there," Glossup said Thursday morning.

Glossup said Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Bill Reese opted to file charges more fitting the severity of the offenses after learning more about the case, as well as public outcries of concern.

Reese contacted the district attorney's office to seek warrants against Williams for manslaughter and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, for the death and injury of the construction workers. Assistant District Attorney Steve Lilley signed the complaints, which Reese then presented to Glossup. Glossup signed them Tuesday afternoon.

Williams, who has remained in the county jail since Saturday evening, was served late Tuesday with the four new charges. Glossup arraigned him Wednesday morning, setting bond at $200,000 each for the two manslaughter charges and both of the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charges.

Authorities say Williams was in his new pickup truck about 3 p.m. Saturday, traveling east on FM 1567 just west of State Highway 19, despite the fact that he is legally blind and does not have a valid driver's license.

The pickup first hit a stationary cement truck where a construction crew was working. The pickup then backed up, striking four construction workers, before running into a trailer being pulled by another truck. The truck then struck two of the men a second time before it left the scene.

Bryan Keith Howell, 46, of Brady and Charles Glenn Skaggs, 41, of Sulphur Springs were pronounced dead at the scene by Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Yvonne King. Their funerals were held Tuesday.

James Edward Mitchell, 31, of Sulphur Springs was flown from the crash scene to East Texas Medical Center in Tyler for treatment of suspected internal injuries. Travis Wade Moody, 19, of Quitman was taken by ambulance to Hopkins County Memorial Hospital.

While emergency crews attended to the injured, state troopers and sheriff's deputies began scouring the area for the pickup that had left the scene. Williams was located a short time later on County Road 1116 and was arrested on the initial charges.

After learning more about the incident and completing his investigation, Reese decided the facts of the case -- including Williams' blindness and his lack of a valid driver's license -- warranted a more severe charge.

But because Williams had already been arraigned on the six state jail felony offenses and the bonds set, Reese couldn't just ask that the charges be changed -- he was required to seek warrants to file new charges, according to Glossup.

The decision to originally set bail on the charges against Williams at $5,000 each has drawn some public criticism, but the amounts followed the guidelines that judges are required to follow when setting bond.

Glossup said that the original bond of $5,000 is a normal amount for state jail felony offenses, and that without further information regarding the reason for the charges, he set bond accordingly.

However, after Reese imparted more information on the second set of complaints, learning that Williams had been reported Friday for driving while legally blind and hearing from people concerned that with such a low bail amount Williams would be able to make bond and be right back on the streets, the second bond was higher.

"We can't use bond as punishment," Glossup said. "But for the safety of the community, I set these at $200,000 each. If he did get back out and did drive, I don't want to be held responsible. I've received a lot of comments from the public and the family, and the trooper heard a lot, too."

Williams was known prior to Friday by sheriff's deputies due to involvement in numerous disturbances with family members, including siblings and his mother, earlier this year. In recent months, he had been taken into protective custody to receive medical treatment for unstable behavior. He has since been released and was allowed to go home.

"He's been in and out of our facility a couple of times," Glossup said. "Just Friday he was reported for driving, and he's legally blind. The deputies did all they could to patrol and try to find him then, but just didn't come up on him."

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