Jury Deciding Sentence for Drunken Driver That Killed 5th Grader

By Chris Van Horne
|  Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014  |  Updated 12:22 PM CDT
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Walter Chidyausiku pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to intoxication manslaughter in the death of 10-year-old Tavian

Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 Fort Worth Reporter

Walter Chidyausiku pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to intoxication manslaughter in the death of 10-year-old Tavian "TJ" Sabur. Now a Tarrant County jury must decide his sentence.

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Jury Deciding Sentence for Drunk Driver That Killed Fifth Grader

The fate of an Arlington driver who admitted to driving drunk and killing a 10-year-old boy is now in the hands of a jury.
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The fate of an Arlington driver who admitted to driving drunk and killing a 10-year-old boy is now in the hands of a jury.

Walter Chidyausiku pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault. The intoxication manslaughter charge carries a penalty of probation to 20 years in prison. The intoxication assault charge is probation to 10 years in prison. The sentences would be served concurrently.

Tarrant County assistant district attorney Mark Thielman asked the jury to send Chidyausiku to prison for as long as they see fit.

Chidyausiku ran a stop sign in South Arlington on Sept. 1, 2011, and killed Tavian "TJ" Sabur. The 5th grader was on his way home to get ready for football practice. He and his mother, Tina Reese, were just three blocks from home when they were hit.

It was a particularly emotional morning of testimony from Reese, who through tears recalled what little she could remember from the violent crash.

"I couldn't move. I tried to look at my son in the back seat," Reese recalled. "He was unconscious, there was blood coming from his mouth, but I couldn't' reach him and I must have went unconscious."

Reese then remembers waking up in the hospital and kept asking about her son. A family friend who had been with TJ told her his heart wouldn't last much longer on the respirator as TJ's spinal chord had been severed in the crash.

Reese suffered a broken neck and severe torso injuries that required blood transfusions and several surgeries. After one such surgery she was taken by ambulance from John Peter Smith Hospital to Cook Children's Medical Center to see her son.

"They took me to his room," Reese recalled "I was on a backboard because I couldn’t move my neck. So, Henry picked TJ up and brought him forward to me, so I could hold him."

TJ died after being removed from the respirator a day after the crash.

Following Reese's testimony, the prosecution brought four witnesses to the stand to recount what they saw, both the crash and the aftermath.

Several witnesses described Chidyausiku as not seeming all that concerned following the collision, at least not until a nurse who was nearby said she couldn't find a pulse on TJ.

Sherry Johnson was on her way to work and heard the impact. She described it as a "sickening, deafening sound." She then saw the vehicles spin into her view and she called 911.

Prosecutors played her call to 911, where she was overcome with emotion. She eventually handed the phone to the nurse who talked to the operator.

Reese then went home, too distraught to got to work. That's when she learned that the boy injured in the collision was a neighborhood boy who would use her family's basketball hoop.

"I have to pass through there (the crash scene) everyday," Johnson said. "I have to pass through there every night on my way home from work. It will always be with us."

In the afternoon several Arlington Fire Department firefighters testified about giving medical aid to Reese and TJ. One testified that Reese kept asking about her son throughout the ambulance ride.

Prosecutors also called Arlington Police Officer Brian Martin. Martin is a DWI officer with the department. He administered a field sobriety test to Chidyausiku. Before doing so they had a 15 minute conversation about what happened.

Jurors saw the video and heard partial audio. The audio dropped out due to technology problems with the dash cam recorder. Martin said Chidyausiku admitted to driving through the stop sign.

However, it took several minutes and several versions for Chidyausiku, through hysterical crying, to get his story straight. Chidyausiku was coming home from work at the Bank of America on Amon Carter Boulevard in Fort Worth, stopped at a bar, admitted to drinking two beers and then driving to the Arlington neighborhood.

He told Martin he missed two of his turns and was trying to make a left when he hit Reese's vehicle. Martin testified that he could smell alcohol on his breath.

The sentencing phase is set to continue on Wednesday in Criminal District Court #4.

NBC 5's Jeff Smith contributed to this report.

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