Monday, March 12, 2012

Blountville, VA: Driver faces vehicular homicide charge in crash that killed girlfriend

BLOUNTVILLE — A Blountville man faces a homicide charge in the September 2010 death of his girlfriend.

Argie Brian Baker, 29, 513 Holston Drive, Blountville, is charged with vehicular homicide in connection with a single-vehicle crash that killed Brandi Mae Darnell, 21, of Kingsport. He was arrested Dec. 12, 2011, the day after an alleged attempt to kill another girlfriend in Scott County, Va.

A Sullivan County grand jury returned sealed indictments against Baker on charges of vehicular homicide and assisted suicide on Nov. 1, 2011. Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Lesley Foglia announced the state’s decision to dismiss the assisted suicide charge during a Feb. 16 court appearance. Court records indicate the charge was dismissed in order to eliminate confusion caused by the grand jury’s action of returning true bills on both charges after being presented with two conflicting theories of the case.

The homicide indictment alleges Darnell’s death was the “proximate result” of Baker’s operation of a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.

According to a Tennessee Highway Patrol crash report, the wreck happened on Highway 75 near mile marker 5 at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 14, 2010. Trooper Julian Robinson states Baker was northbound in a 1988 Chevrolet Silverado when he veered to the right and struck the end of a concrete bridge railing head on.

The report states Baker and Darnell both had to be extricated from the truck. They were airlifted to Holston Valley Medical Center, and Darnell was declared “brain dead” by medical personnel at Holston Valley Medical Center on Sept. 21, 2010.

Baker’s injuries were categorized as “incapacitating.”

The report states both Baker and Darnell tested positive for drugs, but no specifics were provided. Tests for alcohol were negative. The report indicates they were not wearing safety belts.

Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney William Harper identified Darnell as Baker’s girlfriend.

Meanwhile, an alleged attempt to kill another girlfriend by running over her with a car has prompted an attempted second-degree murder charge against Baker in Scott County. According to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, Baker allegedly used a Mazda sedan to run over his girlfriend twice in the driveway of her Fleming Road home on Dec. 11, 2011. Hours later, Kingsport police arrested Baker on a public intoxication charge in the parking lot of Holston Valley Medical Center when he made an apparent attempt to visit the woman, who was not identified.

On Dec. 12, he was transferred to the Sullivan County jail, where he was booked on the homicide and assisted suicide charges, a fugitive from justice count (due to the Scott County murder charge) and a violation of probation.

At the time of his arrest, Baker was out on parole after achieving early release on an aggravated domestic assault conviction, and he was also on probation stemming from a failure to appear conviction, according to Foglia.

On Thursday, the alleged victim in the Scott County case was in court to testify against Baker at a probation violation hearing, but Baker opted to go ahead and plead guilty to the violation without a hearing. He was subsequently ordered to serve a one-year sentence, Foglia said.

According to Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole spokeswoman Melissa McDonald, a parole revocation hearing was also conducted Thursday.

McDonald said the hearing officer recommended Baker’s parole be revoked, but she advised the officer’s decision is not binding. Before a revocation order is approved, the board must first review the file and vote, with two concurring votes required. She said the process will likely take “a couple of weeks.”

In the meantime, Baker will remain jailed without bond on a parole violation warrant.

Scott County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Dan Fellhauer said Friday that Baker will be extradited to Scott County to answer the attempted murder charge after the vehicular homicide case has been resolved.

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