Driver arrested after worker fatally struck at toll plaza

May 27, 2011 5:13:19 AM PDT
A tragic accident on the Beltway as a custodian was just doing her job at a toll booth when she was struck and killed. One investigator said it's the most horrific scene he's ever seen.

The driver is now charged in Sheila Lindsey's death and is in jail. She was arrested just a few hours ago after Precinct 4 deputies released her overnight. They say they had no other choice but to let her go at that point.

Julie Little, 39, was arrested Thursday afternoon on suspicion of intoxication manslaughter. Investigators say she was driving a black Camaro westbound on the North Belt near I-45 at around 11pm Wednesday night when she plowed into the concrete barriers near the toll booths. The car became airborne, striking custodian Lindsey sweeping up in one of the lanes. Lindsey, 48, died at the scene.

"She took her away from a lot of people that loved her," said Debra Pitts, Lindsey's best friend for 34 years. "I'm destroyed. I'm disturbed about the whole situation, how it went down."

Authorities say Little was taken to Houston Northwest Memorial Hospital for a blood test, which is mandatory under Texas law whenever there is a fatality. But Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office Assistant Chief Mark Herman insists they could not arrest Little last night he says because of a problem at the hospital with the machine that analyzes blood for intoxicants.

"The machine was not functioning, was not working. We had no other recourse other than to release her after a certain point," said Asst. Chief Herman.

He says the law didn't allow them to hold Little longer without those test results. When the test finally was done, Herman says her blood alcohol content came back at .165 -- that's more than twice the legal limit. Three other narcotics were also discovered in Little's system.

That raises all kinds of question for those who mourn the loss of Lindsey.

"Sheila was a nice, sweet, kind, wonderful person. Give you the shirt off her back," said Pitts.

Our legal analyst says the Precinct 4 Constable's Office messed up. He says that driver should have been arrested last night and not allowed to walk out of the hospital after allegedly killing an innocent woman.

"The deputy constable's position that I had no choice but to let her go is not logical, makes no sense and is not the law," said Joel Androphy, KTRK Legal Analyst.

Androphy says constables could have done a number of things other than let Little go: take her to another hospital, for example, where the equipment to test her blood might be working.

"He also bottom line could have arrestd her for a plain old DWI without any type of testing. Plenty of people get arrested even after they refused blood tests and breath tests. It's not a prerequisite to arrest someone that they take a blood test," Androphy said.

Herman insists his deputies did everything by the book. He says a prosecutor in the District Attorney's Office told his officers that they had to in fact let Little go. The DA's Office says it never tells officers whether they can or cannot hold someone who is suspect.

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