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Porter says guilty in I-20 deaths of two children

David Drew Porter leaves court Thursday. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[07/20/01] A Warren County man pleaded guilty Thursday in the July 2000 deaths of two Texas children on Interstate 20.

With his head hung, 34-year-old David Drew Porter, said, “Yes, your honor” when Circuit Court Judge Frank Vollor asked if he was responsible for the deaths of Anthony Tarango, 6, and his sister, 11-year-old Thalia Tarango.

Vollor did not set a sentencing date.

Porter, 4701 Bovina Cut-Off Road, made no other comment while pleading guilty to two counts of manslaughter by culpable negligence.

He was arrested hours after the Dodge pickup he was driving hit the van in which the sleeping children were passengers in the early-morning hours of July 2, 2000.

The children, their mother, aunt, uncle and two cousins were on their way home to Tyler, Texas, after a family vacation in Atlanta. The family had pulled off the interstate so one of the adults could use the restroom.

Porter, a father of one, has been free on a $100,000 first-offender’s bond since July 6, 2000.

District Attorney Gil Martin said although Porter was legally drunk, with a blood-alcohol level of .15, a DUI manslaughter charge was not pursued.

Martin said charging someone with felony DUI manslaughter allows that person to be charged for only one death and carries a maximum penalty of 25 years.

“This way he will be facing a 40-year prison term for both of the children’s deaths when he is sentenced,” Martins said.

On Sept. 26, the children’s family filed a lawsuit against Porter and George Street Grocery, a Jackson bar Porter visited in the hours before the wreck.

The family says George Street Grocery continued to serve Porter alcohol after he became intoxicated and before he began the drive back to Vicksburg.

The family is asking for damages to recover medical expenses and for pain and suffering.