Church bus crash driver convicted of traffic charges
GREENFIELD, Ind. (AP) -- A church bus driver who allegedly used cocaine before a crash near Indianapolis that killed a 6-year-old boy and injured 11 other people has been convicted of two traffic charges and acquitted of reckless homicide.
Charles Goodman, 54, of Chicago faces a possible sentence of two to 12 years in prison when he's sentenced next month. A Hancock County, Indiana, jury found him guilty Tuesday of driving while intoxicated and with a suspended license, according to the Greenfield Daily Reporter (http://bit.ly/28PQb5S ).
Goodman was driving a group from Gary's St. Jude Deliverance Center to a religious convention in Ohio last July 28 when the 15-passenger bus went out of control, left Interstate 70, struck some trees and overturned. The crash killed Jacob Williams, of Gary. Goodman broke his arm and jaw in the crash.
Goodman used cocaine within a day of the crash, experts testified during his two-day trial. The drug tends to dissolve quickly once it enters a person's bloodstream, said Sheila Arnold, a forensic toxicologist with the Indiana Department of Toxicology. When scientists tested the blood about 20 days after the crash, only trace amounts remained, but it was enough to suggest Goodman had used cocaine before he took over driving the van from someone else, Arnold testified.
Goodman told police immediately after the accident he had fallen asleep behind the wheel, state troopers testified.
Deputy Hancock County Prosecutor John Keiffner told jurors during his closing argument that even Goodman's driving while sleepy was reckless.
"And the cocaine didn't help, either," he said.
Goodman's attorneys portrayed him as a trusted member of the church, tasked with driving a bus that experienced a mechanical failure during the trip.
No one on the bus that day was fearful of Goodman, and there were no 911 calls referencing an erratic bus driver before the crash, defense attorney Bonnie Wooten said.
The lead pastor of the church, The Rev. Louise Hill, testified for the defense, saying Goodman was a helpful handyman, eager to assist with different jobs around the church. She said she did not notice anything odd about Goodman's behavior before trip to Ohio and was certain her parishioners would have come forward if Goodman was acting strangely or driving dangerously.
Information from: (Greenfield) Daily Reporter, http://www.greenfieldreporter.com
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