1207 Oak St,
PO Box 939
La Marque, TX 77568
Police seek motorcyclist
charged in woman's death
|By Chris Paschenko
The Daily News
Published December 24, 2008
GALVESTON — Police suspect a motorcyclist facing a manslaughter charge
fled Texas to his home state of Florida shortly after a Dec. 14 wreck
that critically injured his passenger, authorities said Tuesday.
Bond for John Michael Venable, 30, of Orlando, was set at $80,000 on the
manslaughter warrant, which police sought after Crystal Lachelle
Stephens, 35, of Beaumont, died, Galveston police said.
Venable and Stephens were leaving the Lone Star Rally on the final day
of the event when he lost control of his motorcycle, police said.
Stephens, who was Venable’s roommate and co-worker, suffered a severe
head injury and never regained consciousness. She died the following
day, her family said.
Debbie Pulliam, grieving the loss of her only daughter and facing the
realization that she was sole guardian of four grandchildren ages 9 to
14, said she received a call from a Memorial Hermann administrator. She
didn’t recall the administrator’s name.
“They said they were contacting me to help set up an account to pay the
bill,” Pulliam said. “I don’t think I’m responsible for her medical
bills, and for them to be calling with everything else I’m dealing with,
I just told them I can’t deal with this right now.”
Memorial Hermann didn’t respond to questions regarding its collection
Stephens worked for her brother’s construction business in Beaumont with
Venable, operating a front-end loader, Pulliam said. Stephens left no
estate and had no life insurance, Pulliam said.
Pulliam last spoke to her daughter Dec. 12. Stephens finished a weekend
job Dec. 13 and decided to attend the Galveston motorcycle rally,
Venable and Stephens left the rally after it closed at 6 p.m. and the
pair traveled south on 25th Street when police said the Harley Davidson
contacted trolley tracks that run along the road.
Venable, who was initially charged with driving under the influence,
lost control, and Stephens was thrown from the motorcycle, police said.
She wasn’t wearing a helmet, police said.
With Hurricane Ike’s severe flooding having delayed the rally by more
than a month and having led to the dismantling of the island’s Level 1
trauma center at the University of Texas Medical Branch, PHI Air Medical
agreed to station a medical helicopter here.
That helicopter, however, which was scheduled to be stationed at the
medical branch helipad between 2 p.m. and 2 a.m., was unavailable.
Stephens wasn’t taken inside the medical branch. While receiving
treatment in an ambulance, she waited at the hospital’s helipad for a
medical helicopter transport to Houston.
The county health district said it reached an agreement with PHI Air
Medical to station a helicopter on the island. There was no contract
involved, and the company was not compensated through taxpayer dollars
for staging a helicopter here, health district spokesman Kurt Koopmann
Duane Sherrill, a PHI spokesman, said the helicopter left before the
wreck to fly to its La Porte base for a federally mandated pilot change.
The company didn’t rotate a second helicopter to Galveston because the
flight to La Porte was only 15 minutes, Sherrill said.
“We are part of a larger emergency response system responsible for
serving the needs of the South Texas region, and it was not in the
interest of the greater good to involve multiple aircraft for this
singular event,” Sherrill said.
During the weekend of the wreck, PHI made 15 medical helicopter trips to
the island. Not all the calls were related to the rally.
The company’s goal is to support the needs and wishes of local
authorities, Sherrill said.
“We will continue to work hand-in-hand with officials to support them in
providing the best and most appropriate coverage for the island,”
Stephens was buried near Livingston, her hometown, on Friday. Her family
has established a memorial fund at First State bank at Livingston, P.O.
Box 1277, Livingston, 77351.
For More Information Contact:
Public Information Officer
Galveston County Health District
(409) 938-2211 or (409) 392-0007