Traffic death draws indictment

Friday, May 7, 2010

Vehicular homicide and vehicular assault are among the more serious charges resulting in indictments last week from the Marshall County Grand Jury.

Both are a result of two car crashes last year.

Aureliano Orocio Baltazar, 19, of Huntsville, Ala. is charged with vehicular homicide and driving without a license. Baltazar was a server at the Casa Blanca Restaurant in Huntsville, according to his jail intake sheet. The statement by Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Stephen Ellis says that at about 4 a.m. Nov. 27, Baltazar was southbound on Interstate 65 when he lost control of the 1995 Toyota Corolla he was driving and struck a bridge near mile marker 27, killing his passenger, Jose Orocio Baltazar. Ellis states that Aureliano Baltazar was "under the influence of an intoxicant" at the time of the wreck. The Public Defender's office will represent Baltazar.

Darwin Dudley Stovall, 29, of Franklin, was indicted on charges of vehicular assault, reckless endangerment, a second offence of driving under the influence and driving on a revoked license. THP Trooper David Hill said Stovall "was involved in a two-vehicle crash at mile marker 3, State Route 99, causing life-threatening injuries to himself and the other driver." Hill also said witnesses saw Stovall "driving erratically" moments before the head-on collision occurred at 4:20 p.m. Dec. 15. Stovall's license had been revoked following a DUI in June 2009. He was booked into Marshall County Jail on Dec. 16, but released the next day when he posted a $23,000 bond. Stovall's attorney is John Drake.

Two men and a woman who were accused in a home invasion in the north end of the county in December, causing serious injury to the owner, and stealing some of his possessions, were also indicted during the grand jury's April session.

In a seven-count indictment, Laura Beth Lankford, 19, of Arno-Allisona Road,

College Grove, is charged with driving the two men to the scene of the crime, knowing that they were intending to commit aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, and especially aggravated burglary. She was in jail from Dec. 22 to March 2, when she was able to bond out, thanks to a successful motion by attorney Venus Niner of Franklin to have her bond reduced. Niner was not in court for arraignment, and sent word that she had not been retained to represent Lankford in Circuit Court, so Judge Robert Crigler gave her until May 19 to find a lawyer.

Laura Beth Lankford's husband, Travis W. Lankford, 24, of Byrd Lane, College Grove, remains in jail. He is charged with aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, and assault. He allegedly fled to Gulf Shores, Ala., after the invasion of the home on Creekview Road, Chapel Hill, and was not returned to the county jail until Jan. 29. His attorney of record is Eric L. Davis of Franklin.

Michael D. Marlin, 23, of Bandiwood Drive, Chapel Hill, is charged with aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, robbery, and especially aggravated burglary. Marlin allegedly assaulted the homeowner, Lones Allen Butler, 56, causing "serious head injury." In the motion for Laura Beth Lankford's bond reduction, Niner said Marlin had recently begun dating Laura's cousin and had an "extensive criminal history of violent behavior." In January, Butler's brother told the Tribune that Butler was recovering from a hairline fracture of his jaw, a broken nose and injuries to his ear, after coming out of a coma that lasted three weeks. Also injured in the home invasion was Butler's partner, Leigh Ann Taylor, 31, who knew Laura Beth Lankford and opened the door to her when she arrived at the house about 11 p.m. Dec. 13, according to a statement from Sheriff's Detective Keith Jolley. Once the door was open, the two men allegedly rushed in, with Travis restraining Taylor while Marlin assaulted Butler. Marlin also remains jailed. Bill Haywood is his defense attorney.

Also indicted by the grand jury in April were:

* Joseph J. Borger, 40, Maple Street. He is charged with driving under the influence (6th offence), driving on a revoked license, and violation of the implied consent law.

* Zachary Seth Easterwood, 26, Apple Street. He is charged with selling Schedule III and Schedule VI drugs in Nov. 2009 to a confidential informant working for the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force.

* Gerald R. Reardon, 42, formerly of Cornersville. He is charged with theft and violation of an order of protection, and also with failure to appear on charges of domestic assault and forgery.

Borger, Easterwood and Reardon will all be represented by the Public Defender's Office.

Indictment does not mean a person is guilty. That's determined by a trial or by a guilty plea.