Friday, September 11, 2009

Former Deputy J. C. Townsend Charged with Boat Crash

A former Natchitoches sheriff's deputy was arrested Tuesday after being indicted in connection with a boat crash May 24 on Cane River in which six people were injured, officials said.

J.C. Townsend, 27, of Natchitoches, is charged with three counts of first-degree vehicular negligent injury, a felony that carries a penalty of up to five years in prison on each count.

A Natchitoches grand jury also indicted his wife, Nora Townsend, 27, of Natchitoches, Patricia Hatten, 22, of Natchitoches, and Patricia Rhodes, 32, of Weatherford, Texas, on a charge of criminal mischief. The indictment accuses the three of giving false reports to a law enforcement officer, Louisiana Assistant Attorney General Cliff Strider said.

Earl Thomas Rhodes, 36, of Weatherford, Texas, has been indicted on a charge of obstruction of justice. He is accused of tampering with evidence of a crime with a special intent to distort the results of a criminal investigation. Earl Thomas Rhodes and the three women had not been arrested as of Wednesday.

The attorney general's office is handling the case, Strider said, because Natchitoches District Attorney Van Kyzar recused his office since at least one of his employees will be called as a prosecution witness.

J.C. Townsend, who was a deputy but not on duty at the time of the accident, reportedly was piloting one of the boats involved in the nearly head-on collision about 9 p.m. May 24 on Cane River Lake near the Washington boat launch. J.C. Townsend, with four passengers in his boat, is accused of running over another boat occupied by three people. He and a female passenger received minor injuries. All occupants of the second boat were hurt, two critically, according to state Wildlife and Fisheries officials.

J.C. Townsend was placed on leave May 25 and resigned June 9.

Wildlife and Fisheries agents originally charged him with two counts each of first-degree vehicular negligent injury and vehicle negligent injury, and one count each of first-offense DWI, reckless operation of a watercraft and improper running lights. Blood-alcohol tests performed at the state police crime lab indicated his intoxication level was 0.15 percent, almost double the legal limit of 0.08 percent, Wildlife and Fisheries agents said.

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