Vicki Fielding, 51, has pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide and driving while intoxicated. Fielding's attorney, Jered Medlock, entered the plea on her behalf and waived formal arraignment.
Fielding is accused of hitting and killing a pedestrian in Fort Smith with her boyfriend’s truck on Oct. 27.
Fielding's legal file obtained from the Sebastian County Prosecutor's Office shows Fielding has been convicted with DWI five times, the most recent in Oct. 1998.
University of Arkansas - Fort Smith law professor Lynn Lisk said in the state of Arkansas a DWI conviction stays on a person's record for five years. He said this is why despite Fielding's prior convictions she was allowed to drive.
"This woman apparently has gone ten to 15 years without a DWI," said Lisk. "She's got some other criminal charges, but she's gone 15 years without a DWI."
However, Pamela Sell with Mothers Against Drunk Driving said repeat offenders are the most dangerous.
"They're the most dangerous people on the road," said Sell. "It is common that repeat offenders are the most dangerous and are the most lethal in their outcomes."
Nathanael Dejarnett, 20, of Wellington, Kan., was walking down the center lane on Greenwood Avenue when he was struck by what is described by police as a 1992 pick up truck. He was declared dead at the scene, and his body was transported to the Sebastian County Coroner’s Office, according to an Arkansas State Police crash report.
Fielding was traveling south on North Greenwood Avenue, readying to turn left onto North J. Street near her home, when the pick-up truck struck the pedestrian in the center turn lane, the report states. Eyewitnesses told police Dejarnett was walking down the middle of the road.
The wreck happened just after midnight. Conditions were clear and dry at the time of the crash, according to the crash report.
Officers responding to the accident could smell “intoxicants” on Fielding and her eyes were red and watery, according to the affidavit for warrant of arrest. The report states Fielding admitted at that time to drinking two beers.
Fielding failed three field sobriety tests and was taken to Sparks Hospital where blood was drawn and sent to the state crime lab, according to the report. Fielding then claimed to have consumed three beers Saturday evening before driving.
The affidavit states the medical examiner determined Dejarnett’s cause of death to be multiple blunt force injuries from being struck by the vehicle.
Fielding was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and refusal to submit to a breath test, according to police. Records show Fielding posted a $1,500 bond Sunday evening (Oct. 27) and was released.
The prosecuting attorney’s office officially filed charges of negligent homicide and driving while intoxicated on Nov. 1 and Fielding was again arrested. She is being held at the Sebastian County Detention Center on a $150,000 bond.
“Negligent homicide is a B felony and that is filed in cases where it’s alleged that someone is operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and causes the death of someone under circumstances not constituting murder or manslaughter,” said Claybrook, adding the crime is punishable from five to 20 years in the Department of Corrections and up to a $15,000 fine.
Driving while intoxicated is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, Claybrook said.
Court records show the prosecuting attorney’s office also filed a petition to revoke a suspended sentence stemming from a 2004 case where fielding pleaded guilty to charges of delivering cocaine and a 2006 case where she pleaded guilty to breaking or entering.