NEWKIRK — Walker Moulton pled guilty to counts of negligent homicide and DUI Tuesday morning in Kay County District Court.
Moulton, a 2021 graduate of Ark City High School, was the driver of a 2000 Jeep Wrangler on the night of Oct. 26, 2021 in rural Kay County when he lost control and the vehicle rolled over, resulting in the death of his friend and former teammate on the Bulldogs football team, 17-year-old Rhett Lathers.
Two other friends from ACHS were also in the Jeep and suffered injuries.
Moulton, now 19, was facing a charge of first-degree manslaughter, which is a felony, but the charge was amended Tuesday morning to negligent homicide, which is a misdemeanor in Oklahoma.
According to Moulton’s attorneys, Scott Loftis and James E. Schaefer, both of Ponca City, Moulton’s recorded Blood Alcohol Content was .03. But, because Moulton is underage, any BAC reading warranted a DUI charge. If Moulton was 21 or older, there would not have been a charge. The legal limit in Oklahoma is .08 for those 21 and older.
With the lesser count, it is very unlikely Moulton will be incarcerated, on the condition he continues to follow court orders.
Moulton will be on probation for 1.5 years and will have five years to complete 120 hours of community service and pay back $1,339.25 in legal fees. He will also have to complete a defensive driving course and an ADSAC program, or Alcohol and Drug Substance Abuse Courses.
Lathers’ parents were present in the courtroom.
Lathers’ mother, Erica, pleaded with the court to drop all charges against Moulton. In a prepared statement, she told the court Moulton and her son were life-long friends and that she sees Moulton as a part of her family.
“He will live with the anguish of losing his best friend for the rest of his days on this Earth,” she told Judge David Wilkie.
She also referenced the road where the accident took place.
“I can completely understand how that accident happened,” she said.
Moulton’s defense also mentioned the scene of the accident, a winding section of North Enterprize, a loose gravel road just east of the Arkansas River a few miles south of the Kansas/Oklahoma border.
Moulton’s defense said that section of the road was poorly maintained and especially dangerous at night with no guardrail protection from a steep drop-off on the west side and no signage warning of curves.
Moulton’s defense — and Lathers’ mother — told the court the condition of the road likely had more to do with the accident than Moulton’s BAC.