Jury finds a Walthill, NE man guilty of killing his passenger in - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Jury finds a Walthill, NE man guilty of killing his passenger in a DUI crash


PENDER, Neb. (KTIV) - A Walthill, Nebraska man has been found guilty by a jury of killing his passenger in a drunk driving crash last November.

Princess Morris from Macy, Nebraska, died as the two drove home from her 20th birthday party.

One woman was removed from the courtroom as she broke out into sobs when the court clerk read that the jury found 20-year-old Miguel Tapia guilty of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence.

After the verdict was read, a verbal fight broke out between Miguel Tapia and Princess Morris's families.

During the trial, Kent Hanlin, an investigator for the Nebraska State Patrol, took the stand to describe his accident reconstruction.

He said the pickup truck lost control on the gravel road, rolling into the ditch, landing on top of Princess Morris.

The defense claimed that Morris was the one driving the car, meaning Tapia wasn't at fault.

But Hanlin said he sat in the driver's seat, knowing he was shorter than Tapia, and said he could barely reach the steering wheel because the seat was too far back.

The defense attorney accused Hanlin of not processing the scene thoroughly enough, but Hanlin said there just wasn't enough momentum in the accident for the driver to have been the one to fly out of the passenger window.

KTIV's Kayah Gausman spoke with Princess Morris's mother after the verdict was read, and she said that while she thought it was a fair verdict, she didn't think it was a victory, and can hardly imagine how Miguel Tapia's family feels right now.

She'll have more of her reaction, coming up on News 4 at six.

Previous Script:
PENDER, Neb. (KTIV) - A Thurston County, Nebraska jury finds Miguel Tapia of Walthill guilty of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence.

Bond was rescinded and Tapia is now in police custody.

KTIV's Kayah Gausman was in the courtroom and will have reaction on News 4 starting at Five.

Previous Story:

PENDER, Neb. (KTIV) - Testimony has ended in the trial of a Walthill, Nebraska man accused of driving drunk and killing his passenger.

Miguel Tapia was on trial for vehicular homicide and driving under the influence, after a crash that killed Princess Morris of Macy, Nebraska on her 20th birthday back in November of 2013.

But both the prosecution and the defense said the jury's most important job in the trial was to decide who was actually driving that night.

During testimony, officials at the scene of the crash said the Chevy Silverado truck lost control on a gravel road and overcorrected, resulting in the car spinning and rolling into the ditch.

Both Tapia and Morris were legally drunk and not wearing their seat belts.

The pickup truck landed on its side, on top of Morris.

Tuesday, the woman Miguel Tapia ran to for help right after the crash testified that Tapia said Morris was driving the car.

However, investigators at the scene testified today that the seat was too far back for them to drive, much less the 5'6" Princess Morris.

An accident investigator testified that there wasn't enough momentum during the crash for the driver to have flown out the passenger side of the vehicle, but the defense said there should have been a more thorough investigation at the scene.

The jury is still deliberating.

KTIV's Kayah Gausman is at the Thurston County Courthouse in Pender, Nebraska and will have that verdict for you as soon as it comes down.

Follow Kayah on Twitter @KayahKTIV4.

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