Family reacts after man given maximum sentence for wreck that killed their daughter

Updated: Dec. 1, 2017 at 11:08 PM CST
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James Fulton. (Source: Smith County.)
James Fulton. (Source: Smith County.)

An East Texas man has been sentenced to 10 years behind bars for criminally negligent homicide with a deadly weapon, after a wreck that killed a young woman from Tyler.

In May of 2016, James Fulton drove head-on into a car that car was driven by Haile Beasley,20, she died at the scene from her injuries.

During Friday’s sentencing phase of the trial, emotions ran high for families on both sides of the courtroom, as they waited for the jury to decide what punishment Fulton will face.

"There were two families that were affected by this,” says Brian Beasley, Haile Beasley’s father. “However, Haile didn't choose to get in a wreck and die, but he did choose to drive impaired."

Before deciding on a sentence, the jury heard from additional witnesses. Beasley’s grandfather was first to speak about the impact Fulton’s actions have had on the family.

"I've been the fixer but, I haven't been able to fix this,” said Beasley’s grandfather. “Not only did I lose Haile but, since she died, I've watched a part of my daughter die as well, and I can't fix it."

The defense seemed to push for probation but, after roughly an hour of deliberation, the jury disagreed, sentencing Fulton to the maximum punishment available, 10 years in prison.

It was a relief for Beasley’s parents.

"That jury said it was not okay, it was not an accident, you made bad decisions that cost somebody else their life and we are not going to tolerate it anymore," says Jennifer Whittmore, Beasley’s mother.

The night of the wreck, Fulton passed the field sobriety tests; however, he admitted to drinking before getting behind the wheel and refused the blood alcohol test.

Beasley’s father says he hopes the outcome of the trial will send a message to the community.

"The law doesn't state 'don't be intoxicated and drive,'” says Brian Beasley. “It says 'don't drink and drive;' the first sip you take is drinking and driving, that's the law."

Beasley’s family says they will continue to honor her memory.

"Haile was fun and Haile was silly,” says Whittmore. “She was so positive and encouraging."

Beasley's father says he wants to work toward creating a law in her honor that will make it mandatory for blood alcohol tests to be conducted when a fatal wreck occurs.

"Maybe her bigger purpose is to save a life or two or three, and change the way Smith County is,” says Brian Beasley. “Maybe that's what her purpose was."

Beasley’s birthday passed on November 17. She would have been 22.

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