GALLIPOLIS — A man who survived a crash Wednesday which resulted in a motorcycle fatality was charged with second-degree felony aggravated vehicular homicide Thursday and is anticipated to appear in Gallipolis Municipal Court for arraignment at 10 a.m., Friday.
The surviving man also had two previous encounters with law enforcement Tuesday (Aug. 14) regarding reported OVI crimes, the second incident occurring within 24 hours of the Wednesday (Aug. 15) motorcycle fatality and a reported third OVI incident.
According to Gallipolis Municipal Court complaint records, Matthew Preston, 38, of Crown City, “was traveling westbound on State Route 588 in the area of milepost 6 (Wednesday afternoon). At this location, Preston struck Robert Baxter (Jr.) as Baxter was traveling on a motorcycle eastbound on State Route 588. At the time of the collision, Preston was traveling in the eastbound lane of State Route 588 while attempting to pass a truck on a double yellow line, in a curve, on a hillcrest. Due to the impact of the collision, Robert Baxter suffered fatal injuries. (Troopers) were on scene and while conversing with Preston observed signs of obvious impairment. At the request of (the trooper), Preston performed standard field sobriety testing and was determined to be impaired. (Troopers) arrested Preston for OVI.”
Baxter, 66, was a resident of Gallipolis.
According to another criminal complaint filed regarding an incident that happened the Tuesday (Aug. 14),” (Responding law enforcement officer) was dispatched to an unresponsive male at (gas station in Rio Grande area). Upon arrival, five doses of 4 mg Naloxone was administered to Matthew S. Preston. Matthew was behind the driver seat of the vehicle with the keys in the ignition and the engine running. Matthew was removed from the vehicle and was revived. Upon searching the general area where Matthew was sitting, an uncapped needle was located under the driver seat. Matthew informed EMS that he used heroin. Matthew was transported to Holzer Medical Center for treatment. Please issue warrant.”
“Ours was a call of an overdose,” said Rio Grande Police Chief Josh Davies. “He was unresponsive. We were able to get him responsive and he was transported by squad to the hospital. We did our criminal charges and he had to be treated so there was nothing else we could do because he had to be treated by the hospital. Afterwards, I conversed with the (Gallipolis City Solicitor Adam Salisbury) regarding charges and he recommended we charge him (Preston) with OVI because he was behind the wheel of the vehicle with the keys in the ignition, the engine running and he was unresponsive.”
Preston was at the hospital before Rio officers conversed with the solicitor about an OVI charge, said Davies.
“There’s ways (charges can be filed),” said Davies. “Obviously, (Preston was out of Rio Grande jurisdiction at the time he was taken to Holzer Medical Center). Usually, a summons or criminal complaint will be filed (with the courts), which is just what we did. We filed a complaint against (Preston). At that time, once he’s taken by the hospital, we don’t know the extent of what’s going to happen…We have to see what happens (whether an individual survives an overdose). It’s kind of a case by case basis on what the situation is. In an overdose, you may have no charges on him whatsoever.”
In an attempt to follow procedure, Davies said Rio Grande police went to converse with the solicitor for legal counsel to make certain what was the best course of action to take next. The warrant, as previously illustrated in the complaint from Rio Grande police, was not issued until after the conversation with the solicitor.
According to Ohio State Highway Patrol Commander Barry Call, troopers had another incident at a gas station on Jackson Pike with Preston at approximately 11:30 p.m., the same Tuesday evening. He was arrested for OVI, after going through a field sobriety test, taken back to the post and processed for the reported incident. Preston was released into the care of an individual who had the situation explained to him, that Preston was still impaired, and who signed a release form to take Preston into his custody and care. Preston was released around 1:30 a.m. in the morning, Wednesday. The fatality which resulted in Baxter’s death happened around 12:37 p.m., that afternoon. As of press time, further complaints regarding the second Tuesday incident are pending, said Call.
“One of (law enforcement) processes is allowing an impaired driver to get a ride (when released),” said Call.
OVI charges in Ohio are typically considered misdemeanors. An OVI charge becomes a felony when a suspect has three or more previous OVI convictions within a period of 10 years, according to 4511.19 of the Ohio Revised Code.
According to Gallipolis Municipal Court online records, Preston had no previous OVI charges. Court reports say he had previous encounters with law enforcement over the last decade.
As of press time, Preston was charged with first-degree misdemeanor OVI, a second-degree misdemeanor for possessing a syringe and second-degree felony aggravated vehicular homicide with more charges reportedly pending.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.