Jury selection has begun in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a highway worker who was killed while working on Interstate 64 two years ago.
Josie Beard, the widow of Dennis Beard, filed suit in August 2012.
Dennis Beard was killed on May 22, 2012, when Michael J. Jeter, 37, of West Frankfort struck Beard and his coworkers, Kory Links, Adam Evans and Brian Moore, who were in the median repairing a sign so they could stripe the highway.
Jeter was charged with four counts of aggravated driving under the influence, but plead guilty to one count. He was sentenced to nine years in prison in June. He must serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for release.
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Witnesses reported Jeter was driving erratically at speeds in excess of 85 mph before his car left the roadway and struck the men.
A prescription bottle that contained four of seven prescribed Ambien tablets was found inside Jeter’s car. Jeter worked in a coal mine from 4 p.m. until midnight the night before the accident. He came home and took Ambien at 2 a.m. then woke up and made a two-hour drive for a doctor’s appointment at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in St. Louis.
Evans and Moore also filed suit. Their cases are pending. Moore suffered broken bones in the accident. Evans suffered face, chest and leg injuries.
Beard, 38, was the father of three.
Opening statements are expected to begin Thursday. The trial is expected to last three weeks. Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot is presiding.