Chase Ends with Fatal Crash in Clay County

July 15, 2003 - Posted at: 11:00 p.m. CDT

PEACH ORCHARD, Ark. -- As one community mourns the loss of a car crash victim, another is still in shock over the actions of the man who caused it.

A high speed chase that began in Paragould led to the crash. The incident began, according to Greene County Sheriff's Deputies, when Jerry Dodd stole a truck.

The chase crossed over into Clay County, that's when an Arkansas State Police trooper tried to end it with "stop sticks." Dodd avoided the sticks, but eventually did stop when he crashed into another vehicle, containing two people, head-on.

"I just said, "Oh my God, they hit.'" said eyewitness Karen Martin.

According to the ASP accident report, Dodd was traveling east-bound on Arkansas Highway 280. When he crossed a set of railroad tracks, Dodd's vehicle became airborne. At the same time, a truck driven by Robert Wagster was headed north-bound on Highway 90. When Dodd's truck came down, Wagster hit it on the right side; sending Dodd's truck into a light pole. In the meantime, Wagster's truck came to a rest on the driver's side.

"And as soon as the blue truck rolled over," Martin said. "Me and my boyfriend, and my two children came right down here to help at the scene."

Because of the crash, and the multiple authorities and jurisdictions involved, Dodd is going to be charged with manslaughter, fleeing police, battery, possession of methamphetamine, and assault. Because he's broken the law before, Dodd is considered a habitual offender and all charges will be considered felonies.

"The investigation is continuing," said Capt. Mike Coy of the Arkansas State Police. "This is not over. We have people still working on it."

The passenger in Wagster's vehicle, William Thrasher, died at Arkansas Methodist Medical Center. Wagster and Dodd were taken to separate hospitals with multiple injuries.

"I helped with it all I could, and it was really bad," Martin said. "It was just really a bad accident."