Man arrested in fatal crash acknowledges drug use day before, but police said after wreck he didn’t appear to be ‘under the influence’ _lowres

John Sanchez

The driver arrested in a fatal high-speed collision on Interstate 10 in February did not appear to Gonzales police officers to be intoxicated with alcohol or drugs at the time, though the man acknowledged he had taken some kind of drug one day earlier, a police report says.

John D. Sanchez, 27, of St. Amant, rear-ended a Baton Rouge man’s sport utility vehicle about 5:18 a.m. Feb. 22 on I-10 West after his attention wavered briefly from the road, the police crash report says. Floyd H. Cox, who was in the SUV, later died.

Once toxicological results came back from the State Police Crime Lab, Sanchez was arrested and booked in Ascension Parish Prison near Donaldsonville with negligent homicide.

Gonzales police spokeswoman Charlotte Guedry said Tuesday the department no longer had a copy of the report after police turned it over to the 23rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

The District’s Attorney’s Office would not provide the test results on Tuesday, saying they were part of an investigation and not public record, said Guedry, who is also the district attorney’s spokeswoman.

Under Louisiana’s negligent homicide statute, the count can be brought when someone is killed in a vehicle crash and the responsible driver’s level of alcohol or drug use contributed to the death.

Negligent homicide is a lesser count than vehicular homicide, which can be brought when authorities find that the driver’s blood-alcohol content is 0.08 percent or higher, which is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving in Louisiana.

According to the crash report released Tuesday, two Gonzales officers saw “no indication that he (Sanchez) was under the influence of any drug or alcohol” after they observed him at the crash scene and later at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales and the Police Department.

Sanchez was first arrested the day of the wreck by the Gonzales police and booked on negligent homicide and misdemeanor counts of reckless operation and driving with a suspended driver’s license, the crash report says.

But he was allowed to go free that day after he posted bail only on the traffic citations, pending the State Police’s toxicological analysis, the report says.

The reporting officer cited Sanchez’s cooperation and the officer’s observation that Sanchez did not appear “to be under the influence,” for releasing him. The officer concluded this after Sanchez admitted to using drugs the previous morning.

The officer had asked Sanchez if he had been drinking alcohol or using drugs. Sanchez responded he had not that day because he had just woken up and was headed to work, the report says.

“He was certain that any indication of drug use in his system this day was left over from yesterday morning,” according to the report about the Feb. 22 crash.

The drugs Sanchez said he took the day before the wreck are not identified in the crash report. The report references a written statement from Sanchez that was not released.

According to the report, Sanchez, who was driving a 2003 Acura RSX west, hit Cox’s 2004 Isuzu Rodeo, sending both vehicles into spins, off I-10 westbound and down an embankment. Cox’s Rodeo started rolling down the embankment until it came to a rest on Boudreaux Road.

Cox, 66, 8269 Greenwell Springs Road, Baton Rouge, was partially thrown from the Rodeo and later pronounced dead at the scene.

Sanchez, who police estimated was going 90 mph, told officers he was hurrying to reach the I-10/La. 73 interchange in Prairieville so he could get to his job at a plant on the Mississippi River.

Sanchez said after he passed a vehicle and switched lanes, he hit Cox’s slower-moving Rodeo.

He said he looked down at something in his car, looked up, saw Cox, braked and swerved right but hit him, the report says.

Sanchez, 11476 Benton Frederic Road, St. Amant, remained in jail Wednesday in lieu of $100,000 bail, online jail records say.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.