The criminal case of the State of Oklahoma (plaintiff) vs. Chad Thomas Kelly (defendant) began on Monday morning, Nov. 18, in the main Court Room at the Jackson County Courthouse.
Kelly is charged by the State for first-degree manslaughter in the death of James Charydczak, while engaged in a misdemeanor, and for leaving the scene of a fatality accident. The accident happened on Jan. 17, shortly after 8 p.m. in the 500 block of Tamarack Road. Altus resident Charydczak, 26, was riding his bicycle when he was said to have been struck by a 2000 Toyota Tundra driven by the defendant.
The case has been brought before Associate District Judge Clark Huey. Assistant District Attorney Ken Darby and Assistant D.A. David Thomas are representing the State, and attorneys David Cummins and Chris Wray are representing the defendant. The defendant faces no less than 4 years imprisonment on the manslaughter charge, and up to 10 years imprisonment and $1,000 to $10,000 in fines for leaving the scene of an fatality accident, if found guilty.
The plaintiff’s opening statement, made by Darby, charges that the defendant caused Charydzcak’s death while engaged in a misdemeanor of reckless driving, exceeding the speed limit at night with the vehicle dome light on, and looking for items inside the vehicle, all while having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 resulting in impaired driving. Secondly, for the defendant having had left the scene of a fatality accident due to alcohol related impairment.
“The evidence that you will be presented will show that the defendant struck Mr. Charydzcak on his bicycle from behind and evidence will be presented that at the time Mr. Kelly was exceeding the speed limit, that he was inattentive, that he was distracted, had two dome lights on, and later that evening showed to have a blood alcohol content of 0.05,” Darby said.
Darby said that Kelly had called 911 farther down Tamarack Road to let dispatchers know he had hit something, and to have someone check it out. Kelly had told officers he had two shots of alcohol upon returning to his home, and later in the evening consented to a blood alcohol test performed at Jackson County Memorial Hospital. Kelly was also interviewed by the primary officer working the accident at Altus Police Department about that evening’s events. The 911 call and interviews will be submitted to the court as evidence.
The Defendant’s opening statement, made by Cummins, first maintains that it was very dark out on the night of the accident, that the victim was not wearing any reflective safety gear, that other drivers barely noticed the victim who was dressed in a brown jacket, black pants, dark boots and hat, without a helmet, and without having “on” the red LED light equipped on the bicycle. Secondly, that there is no proof Kelly was driving with alcohol in his system at the time of the accident, or proof that he was exceeding the speed limit. And third that Kelly did not know what he had hit with his car, evident by his calm demeanor during the 911 call and following interview.
“Mr. Charydzcak put himself in harms way,” Cummins said. “You’re going to learn too, that they say he [Kelly] was engaged in a misdemeanor, a necessary element, and that was reckless driving. They say he did that by speeding, but they don’t have the radar, they don’t have any skid marks, they don’t have anything but a guess.”
Both Darby and Cummins then questioned the first and only witness for the day, APD Detective Robert McGill, about evidence at the scene of the accident, and visible damage to the defendants vehicle, as photographed by McGill. The State also submitted evidence of the victims bike.
The trail will continue today as more witnesses are called to take the stand.