By TODD GLASSCOCK
PALO PINTO – 29th District Judge Michael Moore recently sentenced Nathan Luke Nichols to two 16-year terms in the Institutional Division of Texas Department of Criminal Justice as well as fines of $2,500 on two counts of manslaughter.
In April, a Palo Pinto County jury found Nichols, 23, guilty of two counts of manslaughter in the deaths of Carolyn K. Veach, 54, of Santo, and James King, 44, of Santo, in a fatal car wreck Jan. 3, 2013. Nichols was sentenced May 28.
Veach and King died at the scene of the wreck after Nichols’ Ford Mustang and Veach’s Chrysler PT Cruiser collided head-on about 2.5 miles east of Santo on Farm-to-Market Road 2201.
Palo Pinto County District Attorney Michael Burns said after hearing witness testimony and evidence from law enforcement, jurors determined Nichols was driving recklessly on the wrong side of the road when he crashed into Veach’s car, killing Veach and King. The reckless driving on the wrong side of the road that resulted in the deaths warranted manslaughter charges.
Initially, prosecutors brought murder charges against Nichols because he had reportedly broken into his ex-girlfriend’s home and then fled the scene, Burns said.
Under the law if you flee the scene of a felony and then kill someone, you commit murder, Burns said. “[Nichols] had committed burglary.”
After hearing evidence and testimony at the trial, however, jurors decided on the lesser included charges of manslaughter, he said. “We put on significant evidence but the jury believed it better supported manslaughter.”
“It wasn’t the sentence we wanted, but we are satisfied,” said Ralph Veach, Carolyn’s brother, of Amarillo.
He said his niece had visited Nichols’ mother and aunt and both families were able to establish friendly terms and reconcile over the incident.
Nichols remains in Palo Pinto County Jail awaiting transfer to the Institutional Division of the TDCJ.