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Lucedale man facing manslaughter, aggravated assault and evidence tampering charges
By RUSSELL TURNER
A Greene County Grand Jury has indicted a man believed to be responsible for a 2020 ATV crash that killed two men, including a Runnelstown teenager.
Derrick Wayne Chavers, 37, of Lucedale, surrendered to authorities on Monday roughly 18 months after he allegedly plowed a side-by-side ATV through a group of people leaving a Dec. 12, 2020 party in Leakesville. Wesley Kyle Smith, 23, of Lucedale, was pronounced dead at Greene County Hospital shortly after the incident. Thomas Levi Lewis, 17, of Runnelstown, died from his injuries the following day at Forrest General Hospital. Christopher Cody Smith, 25 of Lucedale, was seriously injured in the crash, while others sustained minor injuries.
According to a copy of the indictment, Chavers is facing two counts of manslaughter for culpable negligent operation of an ATV in the deaths of Smith and Lewis. The indictment also charges him with aggravated assault for “willful indifference to the value of human life” in causing the injuries to Smith.
Count four of the indictment charges Chavers with tampering with physical evidence for allegedly switching clothing with another person to hide the fact he was the driver of the ATV when the fatal crash occurred. The indictment does not say with whom Chavers allegedly conspired, but reports at the time indicated Chavers told officials he was a passenger and that his minor son, who was not named or charged, was driving the ATV.
The incident occurred during a gathering reportedly attended by 100 people or more. Police responded to complaints about the gathering that night, but said there was insufficient cause to break up the party prior to the ATV incident.
Four days later, Chavers turned himself into police. He was released from the Greene County Jail the next day after surrendering his passport and posting a $250,000 bond.
Chavers surrendered to authorities again on Monday after the indictment was served, but was not detained.
Chavers was set for an original arraignment hearing in circuit court Friday, July 29. However, court records indicate that Chavers’ attorney has filed a waiver of arraignment with Judge Kathy Jackson which will likely push his court appearance back to the August term.