Debby Schamber – For the Record

Carl Jacob Broussard, 54, a former West Orange assistant football coach, was sentenced to 10 years probation and fines totaling $10,000 for failing to stop and render aid after the 1993 Geo Prism he was driving struck and killed Ava Lewis, 25, and her 6-year-old daughter, LaMya Newhouse, as they were attempting to cross McArthur Drive in Orange about 8 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2015.

The terms of the probation have yet to be determined. The probation department could make recommendations, but the final decision is up to the court. It was noted Broussard could receive some time in jail. If he fails to live up to the terms, he faces 10 years in prison.

Broussard was indicted on second degree felony charges and could have faced up to 20 years in prison for each charge. Assistant District Attorney Mike Marion was seeking to stack the sentences and have the vehicle certified as a deadly weapon which would have increased the number of years in prison.

In March, Broussard appeared before Judge Buddie Hahn of the 260th District Court and pleaded guilty. He chose to be sentenced by Hahn instead of a jury trial.

The hearing began with the playing of the 9-1-1 tape. Panicked screams were heard in the background as the caller informed dispatchers about the incident. The dispatcher replied help was on the way.

First to take the stand was a witness at the scene, Neosha Weathers. She was a friend of Lewis and was at Hibbet Sports to pickup her boyfriend. She saw Lewis and her daughter walking across the parking lot and attempt to cross the street.

“The car hit her and she splattered and the baby landed beside her,” Weathers said.

Witnesses at the scene moved LaMya from the roadway so she would not be struck by oncoming vehicles.

Another witness at the scene, Keiasis Chatman, took the stand to testify to the events.

Chatman said she was at Big Lots and had crossed the parking lot. She saw Lewis and LaMya approaching McArthur Drive. Chatman began to cross the roadway when she heard a “boom” and saw their bodies flying through the air.

Chatman rushed to help and said LaMya was talking following the incident and “batting” her eyes while their was no response from Lewis. A short time later they were both declared dead.

Stephen Ward, detective sgt. with the Orange Police Department, investigated the incident. During his testimony he said the area was “extremely dark”  and the recently resurfaced roadway did not have any lane markings with the exception of the temporary reflector tags. When he arrived he noted there were three lanes of vehicle debris and clothing on the roadway.

Investigators obtained video surveillance from local businesses to aid in their investigation of the incident. The videos showed the vehicle striking the victims. In addition, a video was obtained from Kroger, where Broussard stopped to get gas, which showed his demeanor minutes before the crash.

Ward testified Broussard appeared in the video to be traveling at a safe speed in a posted speed limit of 40 mph and his actual crime was following the wreck he failed to stop and render aid.

Throughout the hearing, defense attorney Paul Fukuda called a parade of character witnesses. Most were co-workers such as the athletics department secretary and other football coaches like Dale Basinger. Basinger said Broussard was with him up until about 6 p.m.as the pair towed a vehicle.

Also to take the stand was Cornell Thompson, athletic director and head football coach at West Orange-Stark High School. He told of the hard work and dedication Broussard had to the team.

In addition, Mark Broussard, took the stand and spoke well of his brother.

David Galley, a friend of Broussard, tearfully, said on the stand, “Even if it was my daughter and my wife killed,I would not want him in prison. I am trying to put myself on both sides and it was an accident.”

However, Marion replied back that nobody said Broussard intentionally hit them, but he “did intentionally leave the scene.”

Galley then added, “We all make bad decisions.”

The theme of the various witnesses was the same. They believed Broussard was a “good person”, “a role model” and “good with kids.”

But, Marion repeatedly said if Broussard was a good role model he would have stopped after he hit the two victims. Marion later told Broussard he would not be in a bad situation if he had stopped his vehicle. Broussard replied he had made an “irrational decision” and had already pleaded guilty to the charge.

Marion in turn said, “When two people needed him the most, he left them on the side of the road.”

Broussard took the stand in his own defense and said he never saw anyone when the incident occurred. He was looking for the street to turn onto when he heard a loud noise. The windshield shattered on the driver’s side which forced Broussard to look out the passenger side in order to drive. He stopped in a local business parking lot for a few seconds before driving about five miles to his girlfriend’s house.

Broussard said he saw lights in the background,but what had happened did not register to him since things like that “didn’t happen to him.”

“I didn’t want to accept it was anything other than an animal,” Brousard said. “I never thought it was a person.”

Once he arrived at his girlfriend’s house he inspected his vehicle. He compared striking the mother and child to striking a hog and looked for evidence of hair or blood since this had happened to him before. He didn’t find any on the vehicle. He told his girlfriend of what had occurred and she returned to the scene. Within about 10 minutes she called him and told him he had hit a woman and child. A short time later he discovered on social media they had died.

Broussard moved his vehicle into her garage. The next day his girlfriend drove him to the high school. Once at the school he cleaned up his classroom, made sure his grade book was up to date and arranged for a substitute teacher. He later went to football practice.

During this time, a woman called the Orange Police Department and informed investigators she knew who had been involved in the wreck and he would be turning himself into authorities.

Before arriving at OPD he went to his brother’s house and then to his parents residence and informed them of the events. He then went to OPD with the Geo Prism and turned it over to them for processing.

On the stand and in the video, Broussard blamed Lewis for making him and LaMya a victim.

“She made me a victim as much as that little girl,” Broussard said. “That mother brought that little girl across the street.”

Broussard added, “my career is gone, my teaching certificate is gone.”

Broussard admitted he lives with the guilt of what he did and his daughter is a reminder of the incident because she is about Lewis’ age.

In closing statements, Fukuda stated according to a toxicology report,  Lewis had three times the legal limit of alcohol in her system. In addition, the victims were wearing predominately dark clothing in a dimly lit area.

Admitted into evidence was a report of a hair follicle test on Broussard which revealed around the time of the incident there were not any drugs in his system. In addition, he denied any alcohol use on the night of the wreck.

Before rendering his decision, Judge Hahn told the spectators in the court room he wanted to be clear of the facts. He had reviewed police reports and the pre-sentence investigation report before making his decision.

“He is not charged in connection with the deaths, they charged him simply with failing to stop and render aid,” Hahn said. “His failure to stop and render aid did not cause their deaths.”

Broussard bowed his head when he heard the sentence. His eyes filled with tears. Later he said was thankful for the sentence but remains heartbroken over the deaths of Lewis and LaMya.

Marion said he wishes the outcome was different, but respects the court’s decision.

“The judge had a difficult job to do in order to balance everything,” Marion said.

Fukuda said he felt Broussard was a good candidate for probation.

“The legislature said probation is available for a reason and he is the reason it was made for,” Fukuda said.