WALKER — The Denham Springs man who State Police say set the stage for a three-vehicle crash Sunday that killed two young boys by leaving a trash compactor in the Walker South Road while driving drunk has twice been convicted of driving while intoxicated in Livingston Parish.
Travis Wade Rose, 50, pleaded guilty in March 1996 to first-offense DWI in Denham Springs and was convicted again of a DWI count in Livingston Parish in January 2003, criminal records show.
State Police say the garbage compactor fell off the bed of Rose’s Nissan pickup, and he left it in the northbound lane of Walker South Road to return to his house.
Samuel Shropshire, 4, and Khaiden Ramsey, 6, both of Baton Rouge, were killed after a Toyota 4Runner plowed into their vehicle and another vehicle stopped by the compactor.
Troopers found Rose at his home Sunday, determined he was impaired and arrested him on two counts of vehicular homicide and single counts each of felony hit-and-run, aggravated obstruction of a highway, failure to secure a load and no insurance. The vehicular homicide count is based, in part, on the accusation Rose was driving under the influence.
Rose has had a series of run-ins with the law going back to the mid-1980s, including traffic violations, arrests for drug possession and a conviction for simple burglary in 1987 and attempting to possess a firearm as a convicted felon in 2000, court records show.
On March 21, 2002, Rose ran off U.S. 190 west of La. 441 in Livingston Parish and drove into some trees. The trooper who responded wrote that Rose, who smelled heavily of alcohol, told him he was merely parked there. Rose failed a field sobriety test but refused to take a breath-alcohol test, the State Police report says.
Rose was charged by prosecutors then with careless operation and second-offense DWI tied to the 1996 DWI conviction. While Rose was convicted of careless operation and DWI and sentenced for time served, it wasn’t immediately clear if the count was the second-offense charge.
On Monday evening, Rose remained in the Livingston Parish Detention Center in Livingston on the new counts with bail set at $235,417, online jail records show. Attempts to reach Rose’s family members and Rose himself were unsuccessful Monday.
Reagan Snead, 20, who was picking up mail and other debris Monday that had been strewn about in a ditch at the crash site, said he heard one boom followed by two more as the Toyota 4Runner ran into two vehicles stopped on Walker South Road.
“I went outside, and I called the police because I heard people screaming in the ditch,” Snead said.
While the vehicles were gone by Monday afternoon, bits of glass, broken plastic parts, a pair of brown sandals for an adult, light blue latex gloves and a muddy gouge in the ditch gave testimony to what had happened there across from Carriages Mobile Home Park less than 24 hours earlier.
Michelle Ramsey, 34, of Baton Rouge, had hit the compactor and stopped along the side of Walker South Road, also known as La. 447, about a mile- and-a-half south of Joe May Road sometime before 8:30 p.m. Sunday, troopers said.
Another car, driven by Johnell Butler, 29, stopped behind Ramsey’s Camry by the time Ramsey and others began trying to move the compactor out of the way, troopers said.
Contrary to the troopers’ report, Butler, of Walker, said Monday she did not help Ramsey but sat in her Nissan Versa with her two children, Darrenger Brown, 3, and Jordyn Brown, 2, while Ramsey seemed to be checking the front of her car.
Butler added she could see someone using a flashlight to direct traffic.
Troopers said warning triangles were placed on the road.
The Toyota 4Runner, driven by Jerry Ervin III, 26, of Holden, who is also suspected of being intoxicated, went through the triangles, hit Ramsey’s and Butler’s vehicles and ran into Michelle Ramsey as well an unidentified 16-year-old boy, an unidentified 15-year-old girl and Khaiden Ramsey and Samuel Shropshire, troopers said.
State Police have not indicated the relationship among Ramsey and her passengers, who included the teenage girl, Khaiden and Samuel. The State Police report lists the teenage boy injured as a pedestrian.
Samuel and Khaiden were pronounced dead at the scene by the Livingston Parish Coroner’s Office.
Ervin also had serious injuries and was transported to an area hospital. Charges are pending, troopers have said.
Toxicology samples were taken from both Rose and Ervin for analysis, troopers have said.
Adonica Pelichet Duggan, spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, said counselors were at Polk Elementary School, where Khaiden and Samuel were students, on Monday for support and assistance.
“The specialists will remain on site tomorrow, and as needed in the coming days,” Duggan said in a statement.
Michelle Ramsey, the 16-year-old boy and the 15-year-old girl all sustained serious injuries and were taken to a hospital for treatment, troopers said.
Butler, who was in the second car behind Ramsey’s vehicle, said she tried to shield her children from the horrific crash scene as they asked questions about what was going on.
“I heard that momma going, ‘My baby. My baby,’ ” Butler said.
She said she and her children, who had been returning from the day fishing in a pond at a nearby subdivision, were not injured even though both cars were hit. She said she is counting her blessings.
“God had a whole bubble around them,” Butler said of her children. “(Jordyn) just caught her first fish.”
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.