A St. Louis County woman has been charged with vehicular manslaughter after running over her boyfriend in Overland. Rachel Collier and her boyfriend had been drinking and fighting in a car on August 23rd. When her boyfriend got out of the car, she moved over to the driver’s seat and began driving, at which point she hit him. The man was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. Blood draws of Ms. Collier’s blood alcohol content several hours after the incident revealed blood alcohol contents of .094% and .072%. Although the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported that St. prosecutors have charged Ms. Collier with Involuntary Manslaughter and DWI from the incident, the only current charge pending is Involuntary Manslaughter – Vehicular – Intoxicated.
Murder Disguised as Vehicular Manslaughter?
Given the facts of the case, it appears that Ms. Collier may be lucky to be charged with involuntary manslaughter. A case could be made that Ms. Collier murdered her boyfriend using the car as a weapon. Her admission that the two of them had been fighting prior to the incident, that she had to move from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat, and she started the car are all facts that would show motive and intent of murder, not simply a drunken accident. If she chose to run him down, then this case should have been charged as murder. In Missouri the range of punishment for murder is 10-30 years or life, while the range of punishment for this involuntary manslaughter charge would be 0-7 years in prison.
Vehicular Manslaughter a Prudent Choice By Prosecutors
There is no question a murder charge would be much harder to prove against Ms. Collier than the Involuntary Manslaughter involving a vehicule. In a murder case, intent must be shown, not necessarily intent to murder, but intent to hit the boyfriend with the car. To prove this county of involuntary manslaughter the prosecutors will only have to prove that 1) Ms. Collier was operating the vehicle; 2) she was intoxicated while doing so; and 3) she acted with criminal negligence that resulted in her boyfriend’s death. The fact pattern presents an easy case for involuntary manslaughter, and the prosecutors are most likely doing the right thing by seeking the sure conviction of Ms. Collier, but like so many cases, it is not clear cut whether this was involuntary homicide caused by a drunken car accident or a woman murdering her boyfriend following a drunken fight.
If you have been charged with Vehicular Manslaughter in Missouri, please contact The Law Office of Jason A. Korner to have your case reviewed and your questions answered.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Overland Woman Charged With DWI After Hitting and Killing Boyfriend,” Christine Byers, September 12, 2013.