Undocumented teen charged in fatal crash
by JAMES PHILLIPS
May 17, 2013 | 7959 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A 17-year-old illegal immigrant has been arrested in connection with a fatal crash that happened late last week in Jasper.

Manuel Gutierrez was arrested Tuesday and charged with first-degree assault. Despite being 17, Gutierrez is being charged as an adult.

Two motorcycles crashed into the car Gutierrez was driving Friday night when he pulled into oncoming traffic on Highway 118, after leaving Arrow Road.

Jasper Police Chief Connie Cooner Rowe described Gutierrez as “non-English speaking, undocumented, unlicensed and uninsured at the time of the crash.” She said he was not taken into custody at the scene due to a “language barrier issue” as well as conflicting reports over who was driving the vehicle once the suspects were located.

Darren K. Wilcock, 42, of Pineywoods was driving the first motorcycle that crashed into Gutierrez vehicle. He was airlifted to UAB Hospital, where he died Tuesday evening. Timothy, 43, and Dana, 41, Pate, of Townley were on the second bike to crash into the car. The husband and wife were transported by Regional Paramedical Services to UAB and have been released.

Rowe said Gutierrez was arrested prior to Wilcock’s death. She anticipates charges will be upgraded as a result of the death.

Jasper Police Sgt. Joseph Homan and Officer Will Wickwire worked the accident and have led the investigation with help from JPD Investigator Jimmie Vann. Jasper police have requested assistance from the Department of Public Safety’s Traffic Homicide Division.

Rowe said the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service was in Jasper Monday assisting with the investigation. INS has also placed a hold on Gutierrez.

Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair said charges could be upgraded to manslaughter or possibly murder. Adair has requested an autopsy.

“We will review the medical evaluation, as well as other evidence in the case, before determining what the charge will be,” Adair said. “We will review everything closely and possibly present this to the grand jury.”

Gutierrez was initially held overnight in a juvenile detention center, but after being charged as an adult is now housed in the Walker County Jail.