A Missouri man is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child after, police say, he allowed a 9-year-old boy to drive an SUV that eventually crashed, killing a 14-year-old passenger.
The accident occurred Sunday afternoon near the town of Oxly, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Authorities filed charges against 37-year-old Mitchell Wayne Morris Jr., of O’Fallon, on Tuesday, the paper reports.
Sunday’s accident killed the 9-year-old’s stepbrother, Damian Winters, who was pronounced dead at the scene, according to KFVS News.
Police believe the 9-year-old boy, who has not been named, was behind the wheel when the 2000 Ford Expedition hit an embankment on a county road and overturned.
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The Missouri State Highway Patrol said no one in the vehicle was wearing a seatbelt.
The 9-year-old reportedly told a state trooper that Morris was teaching him how to drive, according to KFVS.
“Mitch was driving and had a vodka bottle between his legs,” the boy is said to have told police. “Mitch told me he was smarter and going to show me how to drive 100 miles per hour.”
The 9-year-old reportedly added that Morris told him to "floor it."
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"I hit the gas but tried to brake," the boy said. “I woke up on the ground and ran back to the house for help. I went back and broke out a window to get my brother out but I couldn't. [redacted] was sitting behind me in the truck.”
According to a probable cause statement, police said they found Morris with several cuts on his legs and face, with his eyes bloodshot and glassy. A state trooper conducted a field sobriety test and arrested him.
“I was trying to teach the boy how to drive,” police said Morris told them at the scene. “I was not driving the vehicle.”
Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Clark Parrott confirmed with the Post-Dispatch that the two boys were stepbrothers and that Morris was a relative, though he was neither their father nor stepfather.
Morris was treated at a hospital for minor injuries. The 9-year-old was not injured.
Photo credit: Doniphan Police Department via KFVS News