Motorcycle vehicular homicide heads to Grand Jury

Defendant waives preliminary hearing

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — A Crown City man charged with the second-degree felony of aggravated vehicular homicide waived his preliminary hearing Thursday afternoon in Gallipolis Municipal Court and his case is anticipated to be presented before the Gallia Grand Jury in late August and potentially heard in the Gallia Court of Common Pleas.

Matthew Preston, 38, was also charged with two first-degree misdemeanor OVI counts and one second-degree misdemeanor possession of a drug abuse instrument as well as a minor misdemeanor for marijuana paraphernalia. Gallia County Prosecutor Jason Holdren asked that Gallipolis Municipal Judge Eric Mulford consider at $2 million bond with a 10 percent surety because of reports that Preston had encountered law enforcement three times within 48 hours. According to complaint records and law enforcement interviews, each of those encounters reported that Preston had been impaired and operating a vehicle with the last resulting in a collision and the death of Robert Baxter, Jr., 66, of Gallipolis. Mulford agreed and set the requested bond amount.

The Gallia Court of Common Pleas Grand Jury will decide whether or not to issue an indictment against Preston and continue the legal process.

Gallipolis Municipal complaint records reportedly say that Preston “was traveling westbound on State Route 588 in the area of milepost 6 (Aug. 15, afternoon of Gallia County). 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.”

Preston had previous encounters with law enforcement Tuesday, Aug. 14. One encounter was reported to occur at a Rio Grande business where he was discovered unresponsive with keys in the ignition of a running vehicle. The second was reported at a business 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 Ohio State Highway Patrol 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, Aug. 15. The fatality which resulted in Baxter’s death happened around 12:37 p.m., that afternoon.

According to law enforcement, a standard procedure is to allow an individual suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence to go home once booked with the agency, under the signature and guidance of a sober driver.

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 for various issues.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.
Defendant waives preliminary hearing

By Dean Wright