Sunday, November 17, 2019

Serial drunk driver Edward Meerwald accepts sweetheart plea bargain deal on day of trial

It may not be the sentence he ends up receiving but serial drunk driver Edward Meerwald, 65, Noel, accepted a last minute offer from the McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney's office of four years in prison for his latest DWI arrest.

The offer came after a jury had already been selected and seated and the trial was about to get underway.

Court records indicate the plea bargain was offered after Judge Kevin Selby rejected McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Dobbs' offer to have Highway Patrol Trooper Derek Carnagey, the arresting officer, attest to the accuracy of the breathalyzer test taken after the June 17, 2018 traffic stop.

Meerwald's lawyer, public defender Charles G. Oppelt had objected to the introduction of breathalyzer evidence noting that the prosecution did not have any professional witnesses who could establish the machine's accuracy.

The traffic stop June 17 south of Split Log Road and MO 59. According to the probable cause statement, Meerwald was clocked doing 77 miles per hour in a 60 mile per hour zone.
Meerwald told Carnagey he had been to Joplin and was driving to his daughter's home. Carnagey smelled alcohol on his breath and asked if he had been drinking. Meerwald said he had two beers.

"I informed him two beers would definitely not place him anywhere near the legal limit," Carnagey wrote.

According to the statement, Meerwald voluntarily provided a breath sample on the trooper's portable tester. Despite his claim that he had only two beers, Meerwald said he would fail the test. The sample registered .177, more than twice the legal limit.

Because of the test and Meerwald's statements, Carnagey asked him to perform further tests.

"Meerwald claimed he had issues with both feet being previously broken, along with cellulitis in his legs causing swelling."

Carnagey placed Meerwald under arrest and took him to the Pineville Police Department for a chemical breath test.

The second test registered .121.

The sentencing hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. January 30. Selby is not obligated to accept the plea bargain.

The McDonald County was not the only DWI charge pending against Meerwald.

On May 3, while Meerwald was awaiting trial on the McDonald County charge, an off-duty Joplin Police Department officer noticed him behaving erratically while he was at Hideout Harley Davidson and became concerned that Meerwald might drive when he left the business.

From the probable cause statement:

As Meerwald was leaving the store, he was stumbling and staggering as he walked toward the front door. 

Upon opening the door, Meerwald almost fell onto the ground. 

The officer informed me of the male and advised if he were to leave while operating a vehicle he needed to be stopped immediately. 

I observed (Meerwald) driving his 2016 Chevrolet Colorado eastbound out of the parking lot. I initiated an investigative traffic stop on the vehicle and made contact with Meerwald. I observed a strong odor of intoxicants coming from his person and his eyes to be bloodshot/glassy.

The trial in that case is scheduled for Thursday, December 12 in McDonald County Circuit Court where it is being held on a change of venue from Newton County. Judge Joseph Schoeberl will preside.

A pre-trial conference is set for Friday in Newton County Circuit Court.

Meerwald also has a driving while revoked charge pending in Newton County.

Meerwald was the driver behind the wheel and driving impaired on July 30, 2004 on MO 86 when he ran off the road and killed Jessica Mann, 8, Joplin, and her grandfather, Jim Dodson, 69, Neosho.

The vehicle Meerwald was driving at a high rate of speed ran off Highway 86 and ran into the eight-year-old and her grandfather killing them.

Those deaths were the driving force behind a bill sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, during the 2005 legislative session that toughened the penalties on drunk drivers.

That law, however, did not apply to the man who killed Jessica and her grandfather.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and served time in prison.


Anonymous said...

Just keep him locked up so he can't hurt anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Amen, 11:42. The system is broken in our area. A friend got a DUI in Kansas City suburb and it cost him $1500, had to have one of those blow in switches on his car for 6 months and was paying a monthly charge for that. It got him sober pretty quickly. Here, you can numerous DUI and still be out driving or minor fine depending on lawyer and how much he contributes to judges election campaign. Broken system in all three counties and probably more.