MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 4, 2013

Path cleared for trial in crash

Father of victim, 5, ruled competent

By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer

— A Tulsa man charged in Muskogee County with second-degree murder in an alleged drunken-driving crash that killed his young son was ruled competent for trial Thursday.

Cody Hamilton Welch, shackled to other prisoners, appeared briefly in court Thursday with his attorney, Donn Baker. The lawyer spoke with the seated, shaggy-haired Welch for a short time before Special District Judge Robin Adair set the preliminary hearing for May 30.

Court records show Adair ordered a competency evaluation for Welch on March 26. Adair said Thursday that Green Country Behavioral Health had issued a preliminary report stating Welch is competent.

Welch, 33, has spent nearly a month in the Muskogee County/City Detention Center on $200,000 bond. He’s accused of driving a 2004 Ford F150 pickup while under the influence of alcohol March 9 in the 1000 block of West Poplar in Fort Gibson, according to court documents. Prosecutor say the alcohol led to the crash that killed Welch’s son Jackson, 5. The boy was taken to EASTAR Health System in critical condition, and then flown to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, where he died that night.

Welch was charged March 12. Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore charged Welch with second-degree murder and two alternative charges related to Jackson Welch’s death. Alternative charges allow prosecutors the ability to seek convictions based on different evidence.

Welch was charged with:

• Second-degree murder.

• An alternative charge of second-degree murder.

• An alternative charge of first-degree manslaughter.

• Possession of controlled dangerous substance.

• Failure to maintain security.

Court documents allege Jackson Welch’s death occurred while his father was committing at least one of these felonies:

• Child endangerment — because Welch was allegedly driving under the influence.

• Driving under the influence of alcohol after two DUI convictions.

• Driving with a suspended license.

The first two accusations are felonies, resulting in the second-degree murder charges. Driving with a suspended license, however, is a misdemeanor. If prosecutors cannot get a murder conviction, they can attempt to convict Welch of manslaughter — which is considered a “lesser included offense.”

Second-degree murder is punishable by 10 years to life in prison, and manslaughter carries a term of four years to life. Both crimes fall under Oklahoma’s 85 percent statute, meaning Welch would have to serve 85 percent of his potential sentence before he could become eligible for parole.

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.