HOUSTON—Jury selection is scheduled to begin Friday in the trial of Chanton Jenkins, the 33-year-old father who prosecutors say was drunk when he drove into a bayou and killed five children.
Jenkins was driving in stormy weather on April 18, 2009, when he lost control of his car and careened into floodwaters near Greens Bayou.
Prosecutors say Jenkins was under the influence of alcohol and on his cell phone at the time of the crash.
Jenkins, his adult brother and Jenkins’ 10-year-old daughter managed to escape the car, but five other children lost their lives.
Following the crash, officers said Jenkins had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath, appeared glassy-eyed and was talking rapidly.
Police ordered toxicology tests and said they found signs that Jenkins was under the influence of an unknown drug. They also said he failed field sobriety and breathalyzer tests. Two hours after the wreck, he reportedly blew 0.079 and 0.082.
Jenkins was initially charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter after authorities recovered the bodies of Devin Jenkins, 4; Karrington “K.K.” Jenkins, 18 months; Dreton Thompson, 11; and Malik Barlow, 7.
Police said none of the children was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.
The body of 4-year-old Hallie Jenkins was recovered by her grandfather, W.C. Fields, days after the other bodies were found.
“I asked God to kind of lead me. I just made a few more steps and there she was,” said Fields.
Fields said he found Hallie’s lifeless body a little less than a mile from the crash site. He took the child from the waters, afraid that she would wash away again. A passing motorist spotted the grief-stricken grandfather, stopped and called for help.
Fields was honored by the city for his deed, but he said he was just trying to bring closure to his family.
After Hallie’s body was recovered, the DA added an additional charge of intoxication manslaughter against Jenkins, bringing the total to five counts.
It was not the first time the father of seven had been charged with a crime. Jenkins had a history of drug offenses.
He was charged with possession in 1997, 2002 and 2004.
He was also previously charged with having a prohibited firearm and had served at least a year behind bars for his prior offenses.