The suspected intoxicated driver who was charged with a hit and run earlier this month in Des Allemands has received a second DWI charge in less than three weeks.
Richard N. Watson Jr., 23, of Des Allemands, was arrested on Nov. 24 and charged with a DWI on Old Spanish Trail. Watson was charged with a hit and run earlier this month after police say he ran over 25-year-old Mericka Hill on Old Spanish Trail on Nov. 5. Hill was able to toss her children out of the truck’s path, but was struck and needed emergency surgery.
Watson’s recent DWI charge comes as the St. Charles Parish District Attorney’s Office is deciding whether to elevate charges in the hit and run pending the outcome of a toxicology test.
Nearly six hours after Hill was hit by a truck, Watson was pulled over by the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office and charged with DWI and speeding. The deputy handling the incident noted that Watson’s truck matched the same description as the one that had run over Hill and appeared to have fresh damage to the hood and fender as well as a partially shattered windshield with hair stuck to it. Hill’s mother, Connie Hill, said the hair matched her daughter.
Given the evidence, Watson was also charged with misdemeanor hit and run by the Louisiana State Police, who were in charge of the case because it occurred on a state highway.
Trooper Melissa Matey, spokesperson for State Police Troop B, said despite Hill having to undergo surgery due to her injuries, at the time Watson could only be charged with misdemeanor hit and run.
“The felony hit and run charge has to contain either a death or serious bodily harm, meaning critical injury or potential death,” Matey said. “From what I am being told this is moderate injury, so it doesn’t meet the felony threshold.”
St. Charles Parish District Attorney Joel Chaisson said his office is currently looking at the possibility of upgrading Watson’s charges to felony hit and run.
“We are waiting on the toxicology report. As soon as we get that back we are going to make a determination on how to proceed,” he said.
Given that Watson did not register being under the influence of alcohol when he was administered a breathalyzer test, it appears the DWI charge was applied on the suspicion that he was under the influence of drugs. The Louisiana State Police are currently analyzing a blood sample taken from Watson while he was in custody.
Toxicology results usually take four to six weeks to process. Any change on Watson’s charges would likely come after that report has been completed.
If Watson was found to have been under the influence of drugs, it could be determined that he was intoxicated at the time of the incident.
“It may be more serious depending on the toxicology results. It is going to take expert testimony,” Chaisson said. Watson has been arrested in the past and charged with drug possession and burglary.
When asked if Watson’s prior criminal history would be taken into account, Chaisson had only one word to say.
While Hill was recovering from emergency surgery to stop internal bleeding from her injuries, Watson, who faced a $10,000 bond, bonded out of jail after only being held overnight. As of right now, all of the charges he is facing are misdemeanors.
Hill said she thinks Watson should have been treated more harshly.
“He already went to jail and just bonded out right after. It could have been my kids, but it was me,” she said.
Despite the potential for future developments in the case, Chaisson said Watson was well within his rights when he posted bond and was freed.
“Everybody has a right to bond,” he said. “If it turns out that charges are amended, we will seek to adjust (his bond).”
At this point, Chaisson said his office is looking at all possibilities in the case, including elevating the hit and run charges to a felony and requesting an increase in Watson’s bond.
“I’m not so much concerned about the bond out as much as seeing that justice is ultimately done in the case. That is going to be my focus,” he said.
Chaisson said his office is just doing their best to assure the charges fit the crime.
“It is going to take a little time,” he said.
At the time of his recent arrest, Watson’s license was suspended. Police say Watson was driving the same truck that allegedly struck Hill earlier this month.
Watson is currently being held on a $95,000 bond at the Nelson Coleman Correctional Center in Killona.