A Culver man has been charged with first-degree manslaughter for allegedly driving drunk and crashing into a commercial truck, killing his 9-month-old daughter.
Brandon Christopher Payne, 23, had a blood alcohol content of 0.276 percent, nearly 3.5 times Oregon’s legal limit, at the time of the June 30 crash.
Payne was traveling north on U.S. Highway 97 in a 2012 Ford Escape just before 5 p.m. when Ian Michael Nelson, an off-duty Jefferson County EMS worker, saw him driving erratically, according to court documents. Nelson first noticed Payne coming up from behind him quickly. Nelson told police Payne had to slam on his brakes to avoid running into Nelson’s vehicle, causing the Escape to fishtail.
Nelson reported Payne passed him and was swerving in and out of his lane, at one point crossing a double-yellow median line to pass four consecutive cars. While doing this, Payne did not wait for oncoming traffic to clear and only avoided head-on collisions because oncoming drivers pulled onto the shoulder, Nelson reported.
Nelson called 911 to report the erratic driving and soon lost sight of the Ford Escape, which he said was exceeding 80 mph.
When Nelson next saw the SUV, it had run into a Ford F-750, a large commercial truck. Both vehicles were significantly damaged, with the Escape laying on its side.
Nelson stopped and gave medical attention to Payne and his passenger, 9-month-old Hanna Marie-Lynn Payne, while waiting for emergency responders. Hanna died at the scene, while Payne was taken by air ambulance to St. Charles Bend. He was unconscious and unresponsive.
The driver of the Ford F-750, 41-year-old Douglas Dean, of Redmond, was not injured in the crash, according to an Oregon State Police report.
Jefferson County District Attorney Steven Leriche said a grand jury indicted Payne on Wednesday, and he was arrested Friday after a warrant was issued with an initial bail of $100,000.
He was booked into the Jefferson County jail on charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and driving under the influence of intoxicants. He was arraigned Monday, when Jefferson County Circuit Judge George Neilson reduced the bail to $50,000. Payne pleaded not guilty.
It is not clear how severe Payne’s injuries were, or when he was released from the hospital.
A search warrant affidavit prepared by Oregon State Police Trooper Brian Glaser states Payne was traveling north on Highway 97 when he attempted to turn left onto state Highway 361. He failed to yield to oncoming traffic and caused the fatal accident, the affidavit states. When Glaser arrived on scene, he observed the roof of the Ford Escape had been cut off by emergency responders. He noticed debris and skid marks at the crash scene.
Police on scene noted the smell of alcohol, the affidavit states. At about 10 p.m., Glaser arrived at St. Charles, where he encountered Richee Lee Stevens, Payne’s girlfriend and the mother of Hanna. Stevens told Glaser that Payne had been at work in Redmond and picked Hanna up from a babysitter at 1 p.m. and then took her to a barbecue with co-workers. Payne was on his way home from the barbecue when the crash occurred, the affidavit states.
A GoFundMe account set up July 1 for Hanna’s funeral expenses had raised $5,780 as of Monday afternoon.
Glaser’s affidavit sought blood and urine samples from Payne, as well as a search of the vehicle’s mechanics, a search for alcohol in the vehicle as well as any evidence of Payne’s travel and purchase history.
Payne has a pretrial hearing scheduled for July 27. The Bulletin was not able to immediately reach Payne’s defense attorney, Kevin Carolan.
— Reporter: 541-383-0376, email@example.com