For six months, Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker and his family have struggled coming to grips with the death of his aunt and uncle at the hands of an accused drunk driver.
Some closure, though, may be around the corner.
The prosecutor in the pending trial of Nechole Thomas has told FOX Sports that he expects a plea bargain will be reached when she is set to appear Aug. 21 before a judge in the St. Charles Parish District outside of New Orleans.
Thomas, 26, was arrested on four charges — two counts of vehicular homicide, one count of driving while intoxicated and one count of reckless operation of a motor vehicle — following a car accident last February that killed Alice and Bryan Young. The couple was driving back from Super Bowl XLVII at the Louisiana Superdome after watching Walker play against the Baltimore Ravens when he was a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
A police report states Thomas is accused of driving at “a high rate of speed” when striking the Youngs’ vehicle that was stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 10. Both vehicles caught fire. Thomas escaped her car with minor injuries. The Youngs were dead when removed from their 2012 Nissan Altima.
“If we haven’t worked out a plea, then we’ll move forward in the setting of a trial before the end of the year,” St. Charles Parish District assistant district attorney Bill Starr told FOX Sports. “But I don’t think this is going to trial.”
Each of the two vehicular homicide charges carries a minimum sentence of five years in jail. Starr said that’s because vehicular homicide is considered a “crime of violence” in Louisiana, which means at least 85 percent of the sentence must be served. That would translate to at least an 8 ½-year prison sentence for Thomas.
Thomas’ defense attorney, Mark A. Marino, didn’t return a Wednesday telephone call from FOX Sports seeking comment.
Even if Thomas accepts a plea bargain, Louisiana state law provides family members the chance to attend final sentencing and address the defendant. Walker told FOX Sports that he and other relatives plan to appear in court when the case is resolved.
Walker said his family was devastated by the passing of his aunt and uncle. Walker, an eight-year NFL veteran who signed with the Titans in the offseason, has since become a spokesman for M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and actively advocates that fellow players avoid driving while impaired.
In June, Walker told his tragic family tale to every member of the 2013 draft class in as part of a M.A.D.D. presentation at the NFL Rookie Symposium in Aurora, Ohio.
“I’ve learned a lot just being a part of M.A.D.D., especially the reasons why my auntie and uncle died,” Walker told FOX Sports. “I had to get into it and understand what I was doing. If I understand it, I can spread that message a little better.”
FOX Sports first reported Monday that the NFL soon is expected to announce stricter discipline against players convicted of alcohol-related driving offenses. Under the collective bargaining agreement, approval from the league and NFL Players Association is needed to change the NFL’s personal-conduct policy. FOX Sports also reported the new policy will come after the league and union finalize a testing program for human growth hormone.
According to U-T San Diego’s documentation of NFL arrests, 10 NFL players have been charged with alcohol-related driving offenses in 2013. The charge against one of those players was later dismissed.