Man convicted in DUI crash that left two seriously injured

Samuel Elijah Yearber
Samuel Elijah Yearber

BILOXI -- A Harrison County jury has found an Arkansas man guilty of driving impaired in a crash that seriously injured two people.

The collision led to a permanent brain injury for his passenger and a broken pelvis for a man driving home from work.

Samuel Elijah Yearber, 34, of Pontiac, Ark., was found guilty Thursday night in Harrison County Circuit Court of two counts of DUI causing serious injury.

He faces up to 25 years in prison for each of the counts. Judge Chris Schmidt will sentence him July 11.

Yearber's blood-alcohol level was 0.13, prosecutors from the District Attorney's Office said. The state's legal limit is 0.08.

He was driving 88 mph in a 45 mph zone when the crash occurred, just after 3 a.m. March 10, 2013 in an eastbound lane of the Biloxi Bay Bridge, according to testimony of Michael Davis, a Biloxi police officer and accident reconstructionist.

Yearber had gone out drinking with two co-workers at a couple of local venues and then went to a casino lounge.

His Audi A4 struck the back of a Pontiac driven by Christopher Autmon, who testified he was going home from work at the Palace Casino Resort. Autmon's pelvis was broken and he needed a walker for several weeks, Assistant District Attorney Ian Baker said.

An emergency room doctor testified Yearber's passenger, Maggie Sousa of Gillroy, Calif., sustained multiple cervical and pelvic factures, a broken hip and a dissected carotid artery that caused a stroke and permanent brain damage, Baker said. Sousa remains in a rehabilitation facility.

She can't use her right arm, walks with a limp and is unable to speak without the help of a computer program on a table.

Yearber testified he had one beer and a quarter of a second beer at a bowling alley plus part of a mixed drink in a pool hall, Baker said. Yearber said he drank only water at the casino and hadn't had anything to drink for more than three ours before the crash.

But his recorded statement after the crash and video evidence from the casino contradicted his testimony, Baker said.

A toxicologist testified that Yearber would have consumed at least seven drinks to reach a BAC of 0.13, said Baker, who prosecuted the case with Beth McFadyen.

"Photographic evidence in the case showed that the impact caused Autmon's Pontiac to sustain nearly seven feet of crush damage to the rear of the vehicle, pushing the rear driver's side wheel underneath the driver's seat where Autmon was seated," Baker said.

The jury deliberated less than two hours before returning a guilty verdict on both counts, he said.