Men charged with vehicular homicide

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 4, 2003


KENNER – Two men were arrested by Louisiana State Police on charges of vehicular homicide in separate incidents – one near Manchac in St. John the Baptist Parish and the other on U.S. Highway 90 in St. Charles Parish.

The first incident on Aug. 31, 2002, involved a Columbia, Miss., couple traveling northbound on Old Highway 51, one mile south of Manchac.

In that single-vehicle accident, the car overturned and Charlotte Thomas, 34, died at the scene. The driver, John D. Wellman, 27, was transported to North Oaks Hospital for treatment of his injuries. After a lengthy State Police investigation, he was arrested Jan. 28 and charged with vehicular homicide, no seat belt use and no driver’s license on his person.

Bond was set at $100,400 by 40th Judicial District Judge J. Sterling Snowdy.

The second incident involved a Houma man who died in a single-vehicle traffic accident on Nov. 27, 2002, as the driver of the vehicle and another passenger survived with no serious injuries.

A 1999 Nissan Pathfinder was traveling west in Paradis on U.S. Highway 90 in the right lane when the driver, Richard J. Webre Jr., 33, of Schriever, passed a slower vehicle on the left at 6:40 p.m.

For unknown reasons, according to Trooper Danny Naquin, Webre drove onto the grassy median. He tried to regain control, but the car spun clockwise and the left rear tire caught the blacktop and flipped several times.

The car then crossed the two westbound lanes and threw out passenger Jeffrey P. Umbehagan, 33, also of Houma, onto the right shoulder, where he was later pronounced dead. He had not been wearing his seat belt.

The car landed on its tires and came to rest on the right shoulder of the highway, Naquin continued.

Passenger Chris Carter, 47, also of Houma, and the driver were not seriously injured. Both were transported to St. Charles Parish Hospital in Luling, where they were treated and released.

Webre surrendered on Jan. 27 to St. Charles Parish authorities, who booked him on charges of vehicular homicide, DWI, reckless operation of a motor vehicle and no seat belt use.

Bond was set at $25,800 by 29th Judicial District Judge Emile St. Pierre.

Webre was released that same day, upon posting $1,005 and the remainder on the personal surety of his father.

In a third case, Norman Pool, 28, of Texas, entered a guilty plea to two counts of vehicular homicide and will be sentenced on March 6, according to District Attorney Harry Morel Jr.’s office.

Pool was arrested on Feb. 12, 2002, after an accident in which two passengers in the vehicle were killed. Pool, the driver, was found to be intoxicated.