UPDATE Wednesday 12/09/17: It took jurors about an hour to decide Michal Davis would serve 20 years in prison on charges of intoxication manslaughter.  The second degree felony carried a punishment range of 2 to 20 years in prison.

 

Photo:  Cynthia Campbell is consoled by her siblings, Jeff and Karen Campbell. Her father, Jerry Campbell, had promised to call her if her needed her. She shows them her phone where the phone called her at 5:21 p.m. on May 15, 2016 when her father was struck and killed by a pickup truck driven by Michal Davis. Jerry Campbell was cleaning debris along the fence line when the pickup truck left the roadway. This photo was submitted into evidence by the state during the testimony of Cynthia Campbell. 

By Debby Schamber

For the Record

A hearing began Monday afternoon following jury selection to decide the punishment for Michal Davis, 39, who chose to plead guilty last week on charges of intoxication manslaughter and failure to stop and render aid. The charges stem from an incident in May 2016 when the 2008 pickup truck he was driving struck and killed Jerry Campbell at his residence on Highway 105. 

Davis could receive up to 20 years in prison for the intoxication manslaughter charges. If the jury decides to certify the vehicle as a deadly weapon, he will have to serve half of his sentence before he is first eligible for parole. 

Jerry Campbell, 77, had worked at DuPont for 45 years before retiring. But, when he was not at work, he was working at the what was lovingly known as “The Farm.” Jerry Campbell had worked all day long outside performing various tasks. At about 5 p.m., he spoke with his oldest daughter,Jo, about what they were going to eat for dinner. After making a decision, she went about preparing their meal while Jerry Campbell decided since there was still some daylight hours left he would continue working. Debris had collected along the fence line and he was determined to get it cleared, according to court testimony.

Cindy Campbell had wanted her father to have a Life Alert after an illness, but he had refused. They settled on a cell phone instead with the understanding if he needed anything he would call and she would answer. 

“He always assured me he would call me if he needed me,” Cindy Campbell said during testimony. 

On the witness stand, Cindy Campbell described her father’s usual attire as a crisp white or denim button down shirt, jeans, boots and his straw cowboy hat. He also kept pens and his cell phone in the front pocket of his shirt. 

When her phone rang on the day he was killed, she answered. All she could hear were some voices and her own voice echoing. She called out to her daddy, but he did not respond so she tried again. She decided to hang up and try again to see if he would answer, but all she got was his voicemail. 

“He called me at 5:21 that day when the truck hit him,” Cindy Campbell said. 

She later told jurors her father had called her earlier in the day and when he was struck by the truck his phone dialed the last number called which belonged to her. 

When Cindy Campbell was not able to reach her father, she called the phone number to the house and her sister Jo answered. She was busy preparing dinner and was unaware of what was going on in the ditch out front of the house. 

Jo looked out the window and saw the pickup truck in the creek, so she stepped out into the driveway to get a closer look. She began to look around for her father’s straw cowboy hat. Wherever it was, he was not far behind. She did not see it so she called for him. So she called for him again and again. Still, no answer. 

“That’s when my heart went numb,” Jo Campbell said to jurors. 

Jo called Cindy back and told her it was bad and to come right away. Cindy grabbed her purse and was on her way. But, since she lived at the beach it would take a while. 

About that time a woman who had stopped to help at the scene started walking towards Jo. The woman asked if she was his daughter. 

“It was then I knew this wasn’t going to be good,” Jo Campbell said. “This would be the one time Superman couldn’t come out of this one.”

The woman told her she should not go down to the creek, but Jo knew it was something she had to do. When she got to the edge of the creek, she laid down next to him as he laid under the truck. Only part of the top half of his body was not covered by the pickup truck. She checked his pulse and noticed the large amount of blood around him. She came to the conclusion “he was gone.” 

“I just didn’t want him to lay there by himself,” Jo Campbell said. 

She doesn’t remember making the calls to her siblings. But, does remember calling her brother, Jeff, who lived two miles away. She informed him there had been an accident and it was not good. 

Jeff Campbell arrived and testified that he kept checking his father’s pulse just to make sure, “but we knew better.” He was finally informed by emergency personnel he was gone. 

“The man always said he would make it to 105 (years old),” Jeff Campbell said. “I believe he would have made it.” 

Michelle and Rodney Lawrence were driving on highway 105 shortly after the wreck occurred. They saw Davis near the roadside jumping up and down exclaiming.”Oh my God!” over and over. Later they were talking to Jo Campbell and suddenly realized Davis had left the scene and was walking on Highway 105 towards his residence. Rodney Lawrence attempted to stop him. 

According to court testimony, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers noted there were not any skid marks on the road way although Davis had indicated he had problems with his brakes and steering. A mechanic, Doug Burkett, later testified, he examined the pickup truck and all of the parts were in working order. In addition, he drove the truck without any issues. 

“It was all intact and there was no reason for the truck to leave the road,” Burkett said. 

Before the truck was towed, the Trooper Randall Woodard made an inventory of the vehicle. He began by looking in the console area where valuables are generally kept. This is where he found synthetic urine which is commonly used to pass drug screens. In addition, he found a butane torch type lighter. Also found during the inventory was a flashlight. When he lifted the flashlight the trooper noticed the weight seemed off. So he opened the flashlight. Inside he found a baggie containing methamphetamine, according to court testimony. 

Trooper Woodard testified when he began his investigation into the wreck, he noticed “needle marks” on Davis’ arm, his face was sunken in and he was extremely thin. Plus, his speech was slurred and slowed. Blood tests would later reveal he had methamphetamine at a .22 which is considered “abuse level” and also what is believed to be Zanax in his blood at the time of the wreck. 

The trooper also video taped a field sobriety test. Davis was unable to successfully complete the tasks such as standing on one foot and taking nine steps while walking heal to toe without wobbling.

As a result of the investigation the trooper determined him to be intoxicated and Davis was charged with intoxication manslaughter. 

Paula Wilkins, a friend of the family who became family testified Jerry Campbell was her “second dad” and the Campbell family farm was her home too. 

Carrie Campbell and Rachel Ferguson, both Jerry Campbell’s granddaughters, testified about the tremendous loss of their grandfather not only for themselves but for their children as well. 

Rachel told jurors when she was estranged from her father, her grandfather stepped up. He was at all of her school functions, dance recitals and she could always count on him to be there. He even gave her away at her wedding. 

“Every day I have to pass that creek and look out into that field where a farmer should be,” Rachel said tearfully. 

Jeff Campbell has tried to pick up the pieces of the family farm to keep it going. 

“The place doesn’t look the same, but we try,” he said. “I am trying to keep up with the place, but it’s a bit overwhelming.”

Court testimony will resume 9 a.m. Wednesday in the 163rd District Court with Judge Dennis Powell presiding.