Murder, DUI charges filed after Saturday wreck
The driver of a cargo van who was charged with murder after hitting and killing a man on Interstate 75 early Saturday morning, has pleaded not guilty and remains in the Laurel County Detention Center on a $100,000 cash bond.
Austin Meredith, 24, of Sevierville, Tenn. was arraigned Monday in Laurel District Court and will return to court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing to determine whether the case should be presented to a grand jury.
The Laurel County Grand Jury is scheduled to next meet the week of Aug. 13 and return indictments on Aug. 17. If Meredith is indicted for murder, he would not face the death penalty. Under Kentucky Law, the death penalty is only an option if there is an aggravating circumstance such as another murder, rape, robbery, sexual assault or burglary.
Steve Douglas, public affairs officers for Kentucky State Police Division of Commercial Enforcement said Meredith reportedly had the odor of alcohol on his person, glassy and bloodshot eyes and failed several field sobriety tests administered by officers following the wreck near the 30 mile marker in Laurel County. Officers have secured a search warrant for a blood sample and are awaiting the results to learn his blood alcohol content.
The victim, Howard M. White, 49, of Bagdad, which is in Shelby County, was hauling a vehicle on a rollback tow truck north on I-75. As he passed exit 29 about 4 a.m., he pulled off to the shoulder to check the load.
While White was checking the load, Douglas said Meredith, who was driving a Ford van box truck, swerved off the road, hitting White and his truck.
Sergeant Greg Reams added that White was at the back left corner of the rollback, operating the controls at the time of the collision. As a result of the collision, Meredith's vehicle overturned. However, he was able to get out of the vehicle under his own power and refused medical treatment.
Douglas said White was pronounced dead at the scene. Two passengers in White's truck, who were related to him, were not injured.
Reams said one of the passengers was 18 while the other was a young juvenile who was riding in a car seat.
North bound I-75 was shut down for more than five hours as vehicle enforcement officers investigated the wreck and emergency personnel worked to clear the scene.
"He did not say much," Douglas said when asked about what Meredith told officers about the wreck.
Meredith was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs, murder, two counts of first-degree wanton endangerment and five safety violations regarding the operation of a commercial vehicle.
Kentucky State Police, West Knox Fire Department and Ambulance Inc. of Laurel County assisted at the scene of the wreck.
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