A well-known Lubbock criminal attorney questioned Lubbock police rationales for closing the investigation of Suzanne Tuberville’s crash.
Lubbock police said the investigation into Tuberville’s November car crash on 57th Street and Slide Road was closed without an autopsy report on a crash victim who later died, and on the basis of a 30-day rule.
“They (the police) apparently said (they) can’t do anything because it’s (the crash victim’s death) outside 30 days? That’s just bullshit,” said Rod Hobson, the special prosecutor in the Brett Walrath case.
Ira Purdy, who sustained serious injuries from the car wreck with Suzanne Tuberville, wife of head football coach Tommy Tuberville, died Feb. 17, 109 days after the wreck. Suzanne Tuberville was cited for running a red light.
Sgt. Jonathan Stewart of the Lubbock Police Department said the Suzanne Tuberville case was not considered a traffic fatality since there was no death within 30 days of the wreck, which is the determinant on whether a supplemental report must be filed, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
However, a TxDOT employee in the open records division said the TxDOT ruling does not govern the case. The Texas Penal Code governs it and the penal code does not contain a 30-day rule.
But Stewart said the police did use the Texas Penal Code.
“The Texas Penal Code did play into what we could do with this case and we did go by the Texas Penal Code,” Stewart said. But he could not provide The Daily Toreador with the section of the penal code that contains the 30-day rule.
Hobson said he believes the 30-day rule is a departmental policy.
Hobson, a criminal defense attorney, was chosen to prosecute the Walrath case because Walrath was a former assistant to then-Criminal District Attorney Bill Sowder. Walrath was hit by a drunken driver in 2003 and died five months later as a result of his injuries. The driver was initially charged with intoxicated assault. After Walrath died, the charges were raised to intoxication manslaughter and aggravated assault.
Sgt. Stewart said intoxication made the difference between the two cases. According to the TxDOT crash report filed by LPD, the police did not perform any alcohol or drug tests on Suzanne Tuberville.
Patrick Metze, an associate professor of law at Texas Tech and the director of its criminal defense clinic, said according to the Texas Transportation Code, the police have the discretion to take a specimen of a person’s breath or blood.
Hobson said if the autopsy results reveal Purdy’s death was related to the injuries sustained in the car accident, it would only be one part of a two-part process to charge Suzanne Tuberville with criminally negligent homicide. The police would also have to prove she was speeding, texting, eating, talking on the phone or doing something else to cause a distraction.
Stewart would not comment on whether police examined Suzanne Tuberville’s phone records to see if she was texting or talking on the phone while driving.
The Lubbock police TxDOT crash report did not list Suzanne Tuberville’s speed at the time of the wreck.
When questioned on whether the police investigation into Suzanne Tuberville’s wreck will be sent to the District Attorney’s office, Stewart repeatedly answered that the “case is closed. We don’t anticipate any further charges to be filed.”
Hobson said in most cases the Lubbock District Attorney decides whether charges will be filed.
“In my line of work, most of the time police are not decision makers,” he said. “They compile the reports, they send them to the D.A., and the D.A. makes some kind of call.”
District Attorney Matthew Powell would not speak directly to The Daily Toreador, but his secretary said to her knowledge, no investigative reports on the Suzanne Tuberville crash have been sent to the District Attorney’s office.
Quetha Derryberry, the senior investigator for the Lubbock Medical Examiner’s office, said Purdy’s autopsy report is not complete.
Stewart said Purdy’s autopsy report was not needed to complete the investigation because there was no evidence of any further charges.
Hobson said he thought the autopsy report was pertinent to the investigation.
“I don’t know how they could really decide on that issue — whether the injuries were related to the accident — until they had the autopsy,” he said.
Suzanne Tuberville received a citation for running a red light. The Purdys’ lawyer said she was issued the citation Dec. 1 and had it dismissed Feb. 15, through a defensive driving class.
The Daily Toreador called the Tuberville residence in an attempt to reach out to Suzanne Tuberville. No phone calls were returned.