Corrigan man accepts 6-year prison term for fatal Angelina Co. racing accident

Published: Aug. 18, 2015 at 2:33 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2015 at 4:28 PM CDT
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Source: KTRE staff
Source: KTRE staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A 30-year-old Corrigan man accepted a plea bargain deal of six years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison for a fatal racing accident on FM 706 that claimed the life of one person and serious injured another in November 2014.

"It's been hard [to live with this]," James Tad Wheeler Jr. said.

Wheeler appeared in Judge Paul White's 159th Judicial District Court Tuesday morning for a plea hearing. As part of the plea deal, he pleaded guilty to second-degree felony intoxicated manslaughter, third-degree felony intoxicated assault, and two counts of second-degree felony racing on highway causing serious bodily injury.

"I am very sorry," Wheeler said. "It was an accident. I take full responsibility."

According to April Ayers Perez, an assistant district attorney for Angelina County, the state asked for six years for each of the four charges and for Wheeler to have to serve the terms concurrently. White agreed.

Ayers Perez said the family of Michael Grant Nash, the man who was killed in the accident, told her that this plea bargain was in their best interest.

If White decides that restitution is necessary in the case, he will set at restitution hearing at a later date.

According to the DPS report, Wheeler was the driver of a 2005 GMC pickup, which had veered off the road and rolled over. Wheeler was allegedly racing with another vehicle at the time of the crash.

Wheeler was treated and released at a Lufkin hospital. Two passengers, Sarah Lee Scott and Michael Grant Nash, were ejected from the pickup. Nash died at the scene and Scott was seriously injured.

Wheeler's blood-alcohol level later tested to be .145, according to an arrest affidavit.

The affidavit states witnesses reported Wheeler was involved in a race with Mitchell Bradley Rhodes, 33, of Lufkin. He is being charged with racing on highway causing serious bodily injury and racing on highway causing bodily injury.

A warrant for Wheeler's arrest was signed on March 13. He was arrested on March 18.

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