Distracted driver kills woman; family questions whether favoritism played role in lack of charges
MORGAN CITY - The family of Tammy Warrington is demanding justice after their loved one was killed by a distracted driver and no charges resulted from it.
Warrington died instantly after she was rolled over by an SUV back in September in the parking lot of a doctor's office. Warrington had a ruptured liver, spleen, multiple broken ribs, skull fractures, and her face was mangled, according to the family.
When police launched an investigation into what happened, they learned the driver of the SUV, Erin Metz, admitted to being on her phone and distracted at the time she ran over the woman.
"She always tried to help people," said Joyce Romero, Tammy Warrington's mother. "She loved her grandkids. She loved Mardi Gras, but the best holiday was Halloween."
Romero said all she has left of her daughter now is her memories.
"An urn with ashes, that's it" Romero said.
Warrington's family is in a state of disbelief that Metz wasn't charged, even though she admitted being distracted. After speaking with the district attorney's office in St. Mary Parish, the family has their suspicions as to why there are no charges.
Tammy's sister Donna Leblanc said she told the district attorney's office, "Don't let the parish politics come into this case. His reply to me was, 'No one has called me for any favors yet. The only thing that we know in this office is it's Erin Metz, Dr. Metz's wife.'"
Dr. Metz's name appears on the sign in the parking lot where Tammy was killed. The family believes possible political connections led to what they are calling a free pass for Metz's wife.
"In this parish, everyone knows everybody," Leblanc said. "Or, you're related to somebody or know somebody that knows somebody that knows somebody. We've never been through anything like this before. It's devastating."
The Morgan City Police Department is firing back saying there was nothing Erin Metz could be charged with.
"There are no charges that fit this situation," Morgan City Police Captain Ted Liner said. "It's a private parking lot first of all. She would have to do something negligent for additional charges. Traffic laws can't be enforced in a private property situation."
Legal experts disagree with that opinion. Jarrett Ambeau has been practicing criminal defense law for years and believes a grand jury should have been summoned to decide if a negligent homicide charge would fit this case.
"The first thing that strikes me: Is she is connected to someone," Ambeau said. "If the roles were reversed, and it was the doctor's wife who had been run over by someone else not from Louisiana or someone visiting, would that person not have been charged with a crime?"
Ambeau continued, "Using your phone in the car in and of itself can't be a gross deviation by itself. But to use your phone in a manner that makes you completely oblivious to what's going on to the degree that you run over a human being in the road...or in a parking lot...where you expect human beings to be... To do so in a parking lot in a way you would not see a human being on the ground, that could be a gross deviation below the standard of care."
Ambeau said the excuse about this occurring on private property is also not a good one. He believes that point doesn't matter.
"It's not a traffic incident," Ambeau said. "The question is whether this is criminal, and there is no prescription for the lack of criminal liability on private property."
Despite the way it looks, Captain Liner said favoritism of any kind was not a factor in the decision-making process.
"We investigate any matter, any traffic crash and go where that investigation leads us," Liner said. "It doesn't matter who the victims or suspects are, or in this case, who the driver of the vehicle is."
As this case plays out, Warrington's family is demanding justice.
"I want to see Erin Metz face the penalty that is proper for this crime," Leblanc said. "It is a crime. She did kill someone. She did admit distraction. That means she was inattentive. She was not paying attention to the task at hand. She was careless, reckless in her driving on that specific day at that specific time."
Tammy's family said they intend to pursue civil court remedies in this case.