DWI crash suspect charged with manslaughter

Thursday, March 6, 2008 | 6:21 p.m. CST; updated 4:37 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — A St. Charles man has been charged with manslaughter in connection with a vehicle crash that killed MU professor Charles D. Fulhage.

William C. Downs, 33, was arrested Feb. 22, after he crashed into the back of Fulhage’s truck while driving westbound on Interstate 70 near mile marker 122.

Investigators determined Downs was under the influence of marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs at the time of the crash, according to a probable cause statement from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

After searching Downs’ truck, police discovered a generic form of Valium in his car. At the time of his arrest, Downs was serving two years of supervised probation after pleading guilty in October to driving while intoxicated in St. Charles.

Several witnesses dialed 911 before the crash and reported Downs was speeding and making abrupt lane changes.

The collision caused Fulhage’s 2001 Ford Ranger pick-up truck to veer off the road and flip into an embankment. According to the accident report, Fulhage was wearing a seat belt.

Fulhage, 61, was a professor of agricultural engineering at MU. He was transported to University Hospital, but died the morning of Feb. 26 from his injuries.

Downs was originally charged with second-degree assault, driving while intoxicated, possession of a deadly weapon while intoxicated and operating a motor vehicle in a careless and imprudent manner, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Prosecutors amended the charges against Downs by charging him with involuntary manslaughter in the first degree, a class B felony, as a result of Fulhage’s death. Downs was also charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Downs was released on Feb. 23 from Boone County Jail after posting an $11,000 bond.

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