Man draws 8-year sentence in I-20 accident

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Warren County deputy sheriffs J.J. Kight, left, and Kenneth Ballard, right, escort David Drew Porter, center, from court Friday.(The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[9/01/01]The Vicksburg man who pleaded guilty in the deaths of two Texas children on Interstate 20 last year was sentenced Friday to spend eight years in the state penitentiary.

“I am not saying you are a bad or good person, but there was a bad act committed,” Circuit Court Judge Frank Vollor told David Drew Porter, 32, as he was sentenced in the deaths of 11-year-old Thalia Tarango andher 6-year-old brother, Anthony.

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The children died in July 2, 2000, after the van in which the Tarango family was traveling was rear-ended on the side of the westbound lane. The family the two children, their mother, aunt, uncle and two cousins were on their way home to Tyler from a vacation when the driver pulled off to the side of the highway so one of the adults could use the restroom.

On Friday, about 60 people were in the court to hear the sentencing.

Porter, a real estate salesman, and four character witnesses took the stand Friday to plead for leniency in the sentence.

No members of the Tarango family were in the courtroom, but a family statement read to the court also asked for leniency, saying a lengthy penalty “could not bring back the children.”

Porter, represented by Vicksburg attorney Eugene Perrier, had pleaded guilty in July 2001 to two counts of manslaughter by culpable negligence. The maximum possible sentence was 40 years.

“I feel horrible,” Porter told the court. “I have a 5-year-old son. I pray for them (the Tarango children) many times a day.”

Perrier then asked his client if he understood the severity of his possible sentence.

“I totally accept responsibility for my actions. I would completely understand if I was sent to prison for a long, long time,” Porter said.

Vollor told Porter he took many things into account in making his decision.

“I know it is weighing on your mind,” Vollor said to Porter. “But these children will never have a first love, graduate from high school or have time to enjoy life.

“I hope the sentence I impose may help you come to grip with your own guilt,” Vollor told Porter before the sentencing.

The four who spoke for Porter were his mother, Judith Porter; his ex-wife and the mother of his son, Elizabeth Porter; his employer, Pam Beard; and a friend, Brian Breithaupt.

While on the stand Friday, Porter, 1304 Mulvihill St., said that he and friend had gone to George Street Grocery, a Jackson bar and restaurant, on the night of July 1, 2000, to hear a band and they continued drinking throughout the night. He left the Jackson bar by himself in the early-morning hours of July 2 and was driving his Dodge pickup toward his Vicksburg home when he hit the van.

Tests showed Porter was legally drunk with a blood-alcohol level of .15 at the time of the wreck, District Attorney Gil Martin said soon after the wreck. But Martin chose not to pursue a DUI manslaughter charge because it carries a maximum sentence of 25 years and allows the person to be charged for only one death.

Porter had been free since July 6 on a $100,000 first-offender’s bond and was still allowed to drive because his conviction did not require that his driver’s license be suspended.

A civil lawsuit filed by the Tarango family against Porter and George Street Grocery is pending in Warren County Circuit Court. It seeks to recover $10,500 for medical expenses and punitive damages.