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Drunken driver gets life for death

(Editor’s note: Information for this article was reprinted with permission from The Facts newspaper in Brazoria County, TX. The article was published March 31, 2007 and written by John Tompkins for The Facts.)
Jurors took just more than two hours Friday to come up with a life sentence for Elden Lee Carter, 33, a day after the same jury convicted him of murder in the drunken driving-related death of a Houston woman.
Carter was on probation for his third drunken driving conviction on May 16, 2006 when he slammed his truck into a van driven by Jessica Englebrecht, 32, on the Highway 288-B overpass in Clute.
Jessica Futrick Englebrecht was a former resident of Tyrone.
Relatives of both Englebrecht and Carter cried while Carter himself expressed no emotion as the jury’s sentence was read by District Judge Ed Denman.
As he was being led away by Brazoria County Sheriff’s deputies, Carter looked in the direction of his family and nodded once.
The jury of six men and six women assessed no fine, and Carter will be eligible for parole in 2037.
Carter is the first defendant in Brazoria County to be charged and convicted of murder stemming from a drunken-driving wreck, said Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne.
According to state law, a person can be guilty of murder if they are in the attempt of or fleeing from an attempt to commit a felony and commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.
Since Carter already had been convicted for DWI three previous times, was on probation for his third conviction and was intoxicated when he struck Englebrecht’s van, the situation fits the murder statute, Yenne said.
“The law is clear to me,” Yenne said. “It is something the state has applied drinking while intoxicated to.”
None of Carter’s relatives nor his attorney, Buddy Stevens, wished to comment about the case.
During closing arguments of the sentencing phase, Stevens said what happened that day was an accident, and his client should not be punished like any other person convicted of murder.
“What we’re doing is we may be playing politics with this young man,” he said. “Let’s not do that.”
Carter had every chance to reform his life and he did not take advantage of it, Yenne said.
“Mr. Carter is just as dangerous as a traditional murderer,” she said. “We have put up with Mr. Carter’s choices for too long.”
After the sentence was read, Englebrecht’s husband, James Englebrecht, gave a tearful victim impact statement in which he talked about her life and read letters she had written about him and her younger brother.
“She was like a beautiful butterfly,” he said, trying to control his emotions. “Every room she went into, she lit it up. And now all of that’s gone.”
James Englebrecht said Jessica gave blood in the days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that she woke him up at 5 a.m. a few days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005 to help incoming refugees at the Houston Astrodome.
“She was full of care and love and especially energy,” he said. “This has been a living nightmare for all of us.”
Carter’s former probation officer testified during the sentencing phase that Carter did not complete required classes for his probation.
“I didn’t have any problems with Mr. Carter other than he didn’t follow the terms of his probation,” she said.
The defendant suffered from nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in the days after the accident, testified Michael Fuller, a University of Texas Medical Branch psychiatrist.
“I met a very demoralized, very exhausted from a lack of sleep, a very tormented man,” Fuller said. “He had difficulty even carrying on a conversation about the accident.”