Sunday, February 10, 2008

Man’s trial begins in teacher’s death

Man’s trial begins in teacher’s death

Eagle Staff Writer

Brazos County District Attorney Bill Turner on Monday told jurors that a driver whose trailer came loose from his truck and killed a woman had chosen convenience over safety by not properly securing the trailer.

Turner, on the first day of John Guzman Tello’s felony trial, said the 32-year-old is criminally negligent for unsafely hitching the trailer to his pickup.

The trailer struck Pat Supak, a former teacher at Bowen Elementary School in Bryan who was walking along Copperfield Drive on Oct. 16, 2001. She died later that day at St. Joseph Regional Health Center.

John Quinn, who is representing Tello, said in his opening statement that Supak’s death was simply an accident.

Not every accident is a crime, he said, and Tello should not be convicted.

Tello is charged with criminally negligent homicide, a state jail felony. If found guilty, he faces up to two years in prison or five years of probation and a possible $10,000 fine.

Turner told jurors that Tello’s 16-foot trailer was not loaded properly. All the weight was toward the back of the trailer, placing undue pressure on the hitch, he said.

The trailer was not secured to the pickup with chains, which is required by law, Turner said, adding that the hitch had been altered to make it easier to latch but it would not lock.

Supak’s husband, James, testified that his wife regularly walked along Copperfield Drive for exercise. He said he was out of town that autumn day, and she had stayed behind to make dresses for their grandchildren.

“She was in good spirits and looked forward to being with the kids,” Supak said.

Turner also called Ray Murphy, the Supaks’ neighbor, and emergency workers to detail the wreck for the eight-woman, four-man jury.

Testimony is expected to resume at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday in the 361st District Court in the Brazos County Courthouse, 300 E. 26th St., in Bryan.

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