Fulton sentenced to 10 years in prison for criminally negligent homicide

James Fulton sentenced to 10 years after killing Haile Beasley

SMITH COUNTY - The 42-year-old San Antonio man and former Tyler Independent School District teacher who was found guilty in the death of a 20-year-old Tyler woman in a 2016 crash on Grande Boulevard was sentenced to 10 years in prison. 

Fulton was found guilty of causing the May 14, 2016, Grande Boulevard fatal wreck after he left a Tyler restaurant having had over 40 ounces of beer. Fulton became distracted, crossed over the turn lane and into oncoming traffic where he crashed into Beasley's vehicle causing it to roll. Although he was not found to be intoxicated, he was charged with the criminally negligent homicide of Haile Dawn Beasley. 

Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham called on Beasely's grandfather, father and mother, Jennifer Whittmore, to testify in the sentencing portion of the trial.

Bingham set out on a path to prove how Fulton's actions on May 14 led up to the impaired driving that caused Beasley's death. 

"This is a gross deviation from the statdard of care that an ordinary person would exercise," Bingham repeated throughout the trial.

The prosecutors brought in expert witnesses who told the jury how alcohol affects vision, attention and how it is metabolized in the body.

Whittmore told stories of her daughter and described her as a funny, silly and quirky young woman who was a certified dental hygienist. She also said she was angry at Fulton.

"I'm angry at him because he took her life and ruined mine," Jennifer Whittmore said. 

When asked what she wanted the public and the community to know about her daughter's death, she said, "Don't do it. You don't have to be stumbling drunk to be driving under the influence. You impact and hurt someone else's life. There are so many options."

The defense called on Fulton's adult supervision probation supervisor. He said Fulton had been put on probation and had an interlock device installed on his vehicle. 

Another Smith County adult probation representative took the stand and described to the jury what probation means and how it affects a person who is ordered to be on probation. 

Tyler Fire Department Captain Ron Bogenschutz testified that his unit was dispatched to the scene of the crash that took Beasley's life. He also said he has been friends with Fulton for more than 15 years. 

The crash was pretty gruesome and his unit used a number of tools to get Beasley out of the vehicle, he said.

"I understand why the jury ruled the way they did," he said. 

Fulton, a former teacher, is employed in the oil field and a married father of three, was described by a former co-worker as a passionate teacher who decided to leave teaching and work on developing his pressure washing business. 

Fulton's sister-in-law testified on his behalf that he is not an intentional lawbreaker and the accident has had a terrible effect on the entire family. She described Fulton as a person who didn't drink a lot. She said she doesn't believe that Fulton was intoxicated, but she agreed he was impaired at the time of the crash. 

Her answers to Bingham's questions raised the emotions of Beasley's family to the point that her mother and father had to leave the courtroom. 

She said she doesn't think that Bingham's accusations of Fulton's lack of remorse by going back to The Cascades on at least one occasion and drinking beer with some friends are something he shouldn't have been doing. 

Ashley Beasley, 17, Haile's sister and a student at Robert E. Lee High School, told the jury about the relationship she had with her older sister. 

"I woke up to the most gut wrenching scream," she said. "I saw my mom sitting on the floor with her face in her hands. An officer told me there was a crash and your sister didn't make it."

She described her relationship with her sister that of a built-in best friend. She said there's not a day that goes by that she doesn't feel the pain of losing her sister. She told the jury of their last Snapchat, late night text messages and phone calls. 

"I'm a new driver," Ashley said. "I don't go down Grande. I take the long way around. It's too hard. That's where her life was taken."

Fulton's wife, their children, his brother, other family members and friends were in the courtroom Friday. His children were not there when he was given his sentence. Fulton's wife was seen wiping tears from her eyes as she listened to testimony throughout the trial. 

Beasley's parents, stepparents, sister, grandparents and many other family members and friends were in the courtroom throughout the trial. Her father and mother stepped out of courtroom on many occasions when testimony and photographs of Haile became too emotional for them.  

TWITTER: @LouAnnCampbell 

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