FLORENCE — The driver of a jeep in a 2012 accident that resulted in the death of his passenger has been indicted for criminally negligent homicide.
Court officials said Derek Ray Clayton, 28, 1539 Helton Drive, Apt. F5, Florence, was indicted for criminally negligent homicide by driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Clayton was driving a 2007 Jeep that crashed on Paradise Drive in Waterloo on May 30, 2012.
Cole Michael Lloyd Sellner, 21, of Killen, was a passenger in the Jeep and was ejected when the vehicle hit an embankment and rolled over twice down a steep ravine.
Sellner was flown to Huntsville Hospital, where he died.
According to the indictment and the accident report, Clayton was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.
“We believe this is nothing but a tragic accident where one of (Derek’s) dearest friends lost his life,” said Clayton’s attorney, Tony Hughes, of Florence. “I believe there was nothing of a criminal nature involved.”
The indictment was returned by last week’s grand jury. Clayton turned himself over to authorities and is out on bail.
Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly said Clayton fully cooperated with the investigation, providing blood and urine samples to be tested by forensics.
He said Clayton’s toxicology report indicated that his blood alcohol level was over the legal limit of .08 at the time of the accident.
The state trooper who investigated the accident noted that the Jeep was going too fast for the road conditions. Paradise Drive is a gravel road with steep hills that runs along the Tennessee River.
In December, Sellner’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Lauderdale County Commission, claiming her son would still be alive had the county properly maintained the roadway.
Florence attorney Willson Jenkins, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Laura Ingram, said the death was “preventable.”
“Paradise Drive is in terrible condition,” Jenkins said at the time the lawsuit was filed. “It is full of potholes, loose gravel on steep grades, and has no guardrails to prevent vehicles from running off the steep embankments.”
County attorney Chris Smith said the civil lawsuit is still pending and is independent from the criminal indictment.
Criminal negligent homicide by DUI is a Class C felony punishable by 1-10 years in prison if convicted.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.