Driver admits to role in fatal accident, sentenced to 11 years in prison

COLUMBUS, Ind. — A driver who admits causing a fatal collision over two years ago on Columbus’ far west side has been sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Nathan F. Morrow, 37, said in Bartholomew Superior Court 1 that he was responsible for the Dec. 5, 2019 head-on crash that took the life of Richard D. Walters, 58, of Columbus.

A police investigation indicates Morrow’s westbound 2005 Chevy Tahoe left State Road 46 near Goeller Boulevard, traveled over a 10-inch high median before entering the eastbound lanes and striking Walters’ 2008 Honda Civic head-on.

Walters was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival, court documents state. His cause of death was determined to be massive blunt force trauma to the upper chest and cervical spine, Bartholomew County Coroner Clayton Nolting said.

During the sentencing, Judge James Worton said Morrow had taken what essentially amounted to a “narcotic cocktail” before he began driving the night of the fatality. Tests indicated the defendant had taken amphetamine, which is a stimulant; midazolam, which is used for sedation; oxycodone, a narcotic pain reliever, and a number of chemicals associated with different varieties of marijuana, a court affidavit stated.

The defendant was originally charged with four felonies, causing death when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated as a Level 4 felony; reckless homicide as a Level 5 felony; possession of a narcotic drug as a Level 6 felony and possession of marijuana with a previous offense, also a Level 6 felony. He was also charged with a misdemeanor charge of possession of paraphernalia.

But on Nov. 19, 2021, Morrow accepted a plea agreement allowing him to plead guilty only to one felony, death when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. The Level 4 felony is punishable by two to 12 years in prison, as well as a $10,000 fine.

While all other charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement, Morrow’s sentence is only one year less than the maximum allowed by law. In addition, so many claims have already been filed asking for restitution that Worton extended the time that such claims can be filed with the court.

For the complete story, see Wednesday’s Republic.