OZARK — A Sparta man has received four seven-year prison sentences for his involvement in a traffic accident that killed his 3-year-old son and injured four other people.
John C. Clark, 34, pleaded guilty Oct. 30 to first-degree involuntary manslaughter and three counts of second-degree assault.
Circuit Judge Mark Orr on Friday sentenced Clark to seven years for involuntary manslaughter, seven years for second-degree assault, seven years for a second count of second-degree assault, and seven years for a third count of second-degree assault.
Clark will be allowed to serve the sentence for manslaughter and the first assault conviction concurrently, and then will serve the second and third assault sentences concurrently, resulting in a total prison sentence of 14 years.
Kohen N. Clark, 3, died at the scene of a three-vehicle crash on Missouri 14 near Cheyenne Road between Ozark and Nixa on Nov. 13, 2012. Kohen was riding in the back seat of a 2007 Toyota that John Clark was driving. Kohen's mother, Katelynn Melton, was riding in the front seat.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol crash report, Clark's eastbound Toyota slid across the center line into the path of a westbound 2005 Ford Explorer. A Chevrolet Impala struck the Explorer after the initial collision. In addition to Kohen Clark's death, four people involved in the crash were injured, not including John Clark.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Cpl. Shane Rowe arrived at the scene at 4:50 p.m., approximately eight minutes after the crash. Rowe wrote a statement of probable cause that led to Clark being charged with manslaughter.
"I personally observed Mr. Clark stumbling around. As I spoke with Mr. Clark, I detected a strong odor of an intoxicating beverage emitting from him. I also noticed that his speech was slurred and he spoke slow," Rowe wrote in his official accident report.
Clark refused field sobriety tests.
"Mr. Clark said he couldn't remember how the crash occurred," Rowe wrote. "When asked about alcohol consumption, he said he had two beers at lunch."
Clark reportedly refused to submit to a blood test at a Springfield hospital.
The Highway Patrol seized a sample under exigent circumstances, meaning troopers had no warrant with which to search Clark or obtain his blood. Rowe seized the sample at 7:09 p.m., about two and a half hours after the accident.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab reportedly analyzed the sample Rowe took and found that Clark had a blood alcohol content of .067 percent at 7:09 p.m. However, a sample of blood that hospital staff drew at 5:15 p.m., 33 minutes after the crash, showed Clark having a blood alcohol level of .102 percent, which is higher than the limit of .08 to legally operate a vehicle in Missouri.
Clark is serving a four-year prison sentence for violating terms of his probation from a 2010 child support nonpayment conviction. He was housed at the Moberly Correctional Center before the case from the car accident went to court.
The plea agreement that defense attorney Morris Mettler struck with Christian County Associate Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Tuohy allowed misdemeanor charges of third-degree assault and failure to drive on the right half of the roadway to be dismissed.