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Downs trial set to begin next week

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 | 5:56 p.m. CST; updated 10:00 p.m. CST, Tuesday, March 3, 2009

COLUMBIA — A Holts Summit man charged in connection with a fatal car crash on Interstate 70 is scheduled to go to trial next week in Boone County Circuit Court.

William C. Downs, 34, is charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter in the death of MU professor Charles D. Fulhage, 61, of Rocheport, after the Feb. 22, 2008, crash.

Fulhage was an agricultural engineering professor.

According to documents filed with Boone County Circuit Court, Downs is also charged with possession of diazepam, commonly known as Valium.

A minor change was made to the involuntary manslaughter charge at a hearing in Boone County Circuit Court on Monday. In a motion to substitute information, Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Morrell said Downs operated a motor vehicle with criminal negligence by following Fulhage's truck too closely. The charge previously said Downs acted with criminal negligence by driving erratically.

Downs waived formal arraignment on Monday and pleaded not guilty to the amended charge.

Fulhage was driving west on I-70 when his 2001 Ford Ranger was struck from behind by Downs’ 2002 Dodge truck, according to the accident report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Fulhage’s truck veered off the interstate and rolled over, down an embankment.

Although he was wearing a seat belt, Fulhage died several days later at University Hospital from injuries sustained in the crash, according to the Boone County Medical Examiner’s office.

Downs was treated for minor injuries at University Hospital.

According to the probable cause statement by the Highway Patrol, "Downs had apparently been using marijuana, cocaine and other prescription drugs prior to driving." Witnesses reported seeing Downs speeding and making abrupt lane changes, according to the statement.

 Downs pleaded guilty in November 2007 to a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated, according to Missouri CaseNet.

Downs’ trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Judge Kevin Crane’s courtroom. Jurors will be brought in from Lafayette County.


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