Judge says trooper failed family; Man pleads guilty to misdemeanor in drunk driving death

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CURRITUCK COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) — It’s been nearly a year and a half since Lindsey Parsons was killed while walking on South Spot Road after a wedding reception.

The alleged drunk driver, Charles Baum, was in court Tuesday, where he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor death by vehicle. 

“We just miss her so much and it just breaks my heart that he can take her from us and just walk away,” cried Parsons’ stepmother, Tammara Parsons.

Troopers say Parsons had just left a wedding reception and was walking to her car, headed toward Caratoke Highway.

The suspect was initially charged with DWI and felony death by vehicle, and prosecutors say they were ready to try the case until they met with the first trooper on scene two weeks ago. 

In court, Assistant District Attorney Emily Davis said Trooper Smith didn’t have basic information on the investigation needed to move forward. 

Davis said they discovered no field sobriety or blood tests were given to Baum, no potential witnesses were interviewed, and no information was gathered from fire and EMS that arrived.

She said they also learned Baum’s written statement taken at the crash scene was actually written by his mother, who showed up at the scene. 

Davis said Smith wasn’t aware of the speed limit on that stretch of road, and didn’t investigate why Parsons was in that situation in the first place.

A single breathalyzer test was given approximately two hours after the wreck off-scene, showing as 0.07 — that’s .01 short of the legal limit. 

Davis said they asked him why he waited so long to do breathalyzer test and Smith replied he was waiting for his supervisor.

They followed up with the supervisor, who told them he gave him explicit instruction to do it without him and still didn’t on scene. 

Davis said there were serious problems with Smith’s credibility and several inconsistencies in his testimony.

“He did no investigation of the scene, there were no facts collected,” Parsons’ dad, Jimmy, told 10 On Your Side. 

Therefore, since the case was based on Smith’s evidence, they could no longer uphold the felony death by vehicle charge because they couldn’t prove he was impaired when he struck Parsons and pinpoint that as the cause. 

“Trooper Smith shouldn’t be employed in that line of work because he did this family such an injustice it’s unbelievable,” Tammara stated. 

Baum’s defense attorney said Baum had been at work that day, then went to a rodeo with his parents before the accident. 

His attorney said he admitted to having some beer while he was there. 

The judge suspended the 60 days of jail time leaving, Baum to go home with 30 hours community service and a period of time on probation. 

In court the judge said “This is an absolute tragedy. Trooper Smith failed this family and failed to conduct an investigation of this matter, but with the evidence and lack thereof, it is this court’s opinion that this is a proper result of this tragedy.”

Baum and his family drove off as 10 On Your Side ran to catch up with them to see if they had anything to say. 

We reached out to the North Carolina Highway Patrol and were told prior supervisors looked into Smith’s case and handled it appropriately. 

Beyond that, they say they cannot address personnel issues. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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