Tag: DWI

Wendell Lachney pleads guilty to killing 9-year-old girl in drunk driving crash

A Jefferson Parish judge on Tuesday (Sept. 20) sentenced Wendell Lachney to 30 years in prison, after the defendant admitted that he was highly intoxicated when he crashed his car into a minivan at high speed on a West Bank highway, causing the death of a 9-year-old girl and injuring her mother.

Lachney, 58, of Belle Chasse, pleaded guilty as charged to vehicular homicide, first-degree vehicular negligent injury and other offenses in the Oct. 22, 2021, wreck on Belle Chasse Highway near its intersection with Lapalco Boulevard.

At the time that his blood was drawn more than 2 ½ hours after the crash, Lachney’s blood-alcohol content was .22 percent, more than double the .08 percent legal limit to drive under Louisiana law. Lachney was driving upwards of 60 mph when he drove into the rear of the minivan.

Lachney, who already had two prior DWI convictions, had been drinking whiskey and smoking marijuana hours before he drove into the minivan. In his car, Louisiana State Police troopers found an opened bottle of whiskey, wine, a cup of beer, marijuana and a pipe he used to smoke the marijuana.

Before announcing the sentence Tuesday, Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court heard impact testimony from five family members, including the child’s parents. Her mother recalled being stopped at a red light when she saw Lachney closing in from behind and then slam into her minivan.

“I watched strangers performing CPR on my 9-year-old on the cold cement road,” she testified. “I fell to my knees as I grabbed a man by his legs and begged him to save my daughter. I screamed to God and to the helpers to kill me instead. Take me, so my daughter can live. I prayed. I begged. I bartered with my soul. Did you hear my screams that night, Wendell?”

Said her father: “I miss our jam sessions in the car and our trips to get coffee. I miss holding you in my arms when you need someone to be strong for you. I am so sad that I will never get to walk you down the aisle or see what an amazing parent you would have been.  Your mom, your brothers and I miss you dearly, and life will never be the same without you here.  We love you to the moon and back.”

Following the crash, Lachney was booked and then released from jail on bond. He then entered an inpatient substance abuse program in St. Tammany Parish. Following the child’s death two days after the crash, Louisiana State Police arrested him there after obtaining an arrest warrant. Lachney’s bond was then set at $1 million.

He also pleaded guilty to reckless operation of a motor vehicle, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of an open alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle and for not wearing a seatbelt.

Judge Grefer sentenced Lachney to 30 years in prison for vehicular homicide and five years suspended for first-degree vehicular negligent injury, to be served on home incarceration after he’s released from prison. The vehicular homicide charge was designated as a crime of violence.

Additionally, Judge Grefer sentenced Lachney to 90 days for reckless operation of a motor vehicle, and 15 days for possession of drug paraphernalia. He ran the sentences concurrent.

Assistant District Attorneys Brittany Beckner and Matthew Whitworth prosecuted the case.

Todd Williams gets 21 years for killing 3 Good Samaritans in DWI crash

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (Dec. 9) sentenced Todd Williams to a total of 21 years in prison for killing three Good Samaritans and injuring two others while driving under the influence of alcohol.

Williams, 40, of New Orleans, pleaded guily as charged guilty to three felony counts of vehicular homicide for the deaths of the Rev. Claude Luther Williams, Jr., 40, of Gretna; his friend Williams J. Leinart, 49, of Gretna; and Joseph Chopin, 66, of Marrero.

About 10:30 p.m., on June 16, a motorist was traveling east on the elevated Westbank Expressway near MacArthur Boulevard when one of the tires of her 2017 Hyundai Accent blew out. That caused her car to strike the concrete rail and come to a rest facing oncoming traffic in the left and center lanes, according to Louisiana State Police.

The Rev. Williams and his passenger Leinart stopped to assist the motorist, as did Chopin, who was driving separately. The three men and passengers from the Hyundai stood outside their vehicles.

Todd Williams, driving a 2015 Chevrolet Impala in the left lane, struck the Hyundai, which in turn struck another vehicle and pedestrians. Claude Williams, who was on the phone with a 911 operator when the crash occurred, Leinart and Chopin were thrown over the side and fell 30 feet to their deaths. Other motorists were injured.

Williams blood-alcohol content was .11 percent, above the .08-percent legal limit to drive.

On Monday, after hearing a letter of forgiveness written by the Rev. Williams’ wife and read aloud by a prosecutor, and hearing Todd Williams express sorrow and remorse, Judge Nancy Miller of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced the defendant to seven years in prison for each count of vehicular homicide. Judge Miller ran the sentences consecutively, for a total of 21 years.

Todd Williams also pleaded guilty as charged to two misdemeanor counts of vehicular negligent inuring, for which he received two six-month sentences. Judge Miller ran those sentences concurrent to the 21-year sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Vanderhooft prosecuted the case.

Olivia Matte sentenced to 20 years for DWI fatality on Causeway bridge

A Jefferson Parish judge on Thursday (Nov. 15) sentenced Olivia Matte to 20 years in prison for causing the death of a Mississippi man while she was driving drunk on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway last year.

Matte, 28, of Covington, who had remained free on bond since pleading guilty on Sept. 4, surrendered Thursday to begin serving her sentence.

James Blackmond, 37, of Foxworth, Miss., was driving his pick-up south on the Causeway early on the morning of March 23, 2017, when Matte drove into the rear of his truck about three miles north of the south shore. Blackmond was killed and his passenger was injured.

Matte had a blood-alcohol content of .216, close to three times the legal limit to drive in Louisiana. On Sept. 4, she pleaded guilty as charged to vehicular homicide, vehicular negligent injuring, operating a vehicle with a suspended driver’s license and failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle.

At her attorney’s request, Judge Glenn Ansardi of the 24th Judicial District Court ordered a presentence investigation on Sept. 4 and allowed Matte to remain free on bond until her sentencing.

After hearing impact testimony from witnesses on both sides of the matter, Judge Ansardi sentenced Matte to six months for the negligent injuring, six months for driving with a suspended license, 90 days for careless operation and 20 years for the vehicular homicide. He ran the sentences concurrently.

Assistant District Attorneys Joshua Vanderhooft and Richard Olivier prosecuted the case.