Woman dies helping stranded driver in Conroe

January 3, 2012 3:36:28 PM PST
A woman on her way home from her own 45th birthday party stopped to help a driver with a flat tire. A short time later, she was hit and killed by a suspected drunk driver.

The victim's family remembers her as someone who would help anyone who needed it. They are in disbelief, wishing her 'happy birthday' just minutes before her life was cut short.

Tammy Rhoades just turned 45 years old on Monday.

Her mother Gay Schiappa said, "We'd just seen her. She'd just hugged my neck and told me she loved me."

Rhoades was killed by an alleged drunk driver while she was headed home from her own birthday party. Her mother says they just had cake and ice cream. Schiappa remembers vividly the last thing Rhoades said to her.

"'I love you, Mom.' Yeah, I won't forget that," Schiappa said.

Conroe police say Rhoades was northbound on I-45 at about 9:30pm when she spotted a vehicle in front of her stopped, while its driver was changing a flat tire. The car was stopped in the lane of traffic. The road is under construction so there's little shoulder there.

Investigators say Rhoades stopped behind the car and put on her hazard lights. Shortly after, she was rear-ended by the driver of a truck, which prosecutors tell us was traveling at 65 miles an hour or more.

"The victim's vehicle was crushed like an accordion," said prosecutor Warren Diepraam. "It was some of the most significant damage that I've seen in a case like this."

Police arrested Tyler Shelton, 21. He will face a charge of intoxication manslaughter. Prosecutors say he failed some field sobriety tests and a breath test at the scene registered .162, more than twice the legal limit for alcohol. Tests on Shelton's blood alcohol content are not yet complete.

Tammy's daughter Stefanie Rhoades said, "They should spend their lifetime in jail, because I have to spend my lifetime missing my mom."

Calls to Shelton's attorney were not returned. He remains in the Montgomery County Jail on a $50,000 bond.