A Covington man had cocaine and codeine in his blood when he was involved in a fatal crash that killed a grandmother in the Upper 9th Ward in October, New Orleans police said.
On Monday, months after police said Joseph Echar, 39, crashed into the 80-year-old woman’s vehicle and killed her, he was booked into the Orleans Parish jail and ordered held on $100,000 bail.
Echar was driving a 2013 Hyundai Sonata in the right lane of Poland Avenue, heading toward North Johnson Street, about 12:15 p.m. Oct. 19. Dorothy Johnson was driving a 2000 Chevrolet Tracker on North Johnson, according to police.
Johnson stopped at the intersection and began to cross through, according to a warrant. Police said she did not see Echar’s oncoming vehicle because of a curve in the roadway.
Echar came around the curve and slammed into the driver’s side of Johnson’s vehicle, police said. His vehicle traveled for 68 feet before hitting a tree, police said, while Johnson’s traveled for 103 feet before coming to rest.
Johnson was taken to University Medical Center, where she died. She was the mother of eight daughters, with 16 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, according to an obituary.
Echar was taken to NOPD Traffic Division headquarters, where he tested negative for alcohol in a breath test. But police said they still saw signs of impairment in Echar. Detective Mike Baldassaro said he seemed “jittery, hyperactive, fast-talking and overzealou(s).”
Blood and urine samples were sent to the State Police crime laboratory. Police said Echar’s sample tested positive for cocaine, codeine and morphine Dec. 21.
Echar was booked for unauthorized use of an access card in a separate incident in St. Tammany Parish on Dec. 23. He pleaded guilty to that charge May 19 and was given a three-year suspended sentence, according to court records.
Echar previously pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving while under the influence in May 2014, St. Tammany Parish court records show.